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It is known to all Lincoln students that 
in May 1875 Mary Todd Lincoln was ad- 
judged insane and committed to an insti- 
tution. The following fall she was quietly 
allowed to leave the hospital and go to the 
home of her sister, Mrs. Ninian Edwards, 
in Springfield, and in June 1876 a second 
sanity hearing declared her sane and able 
to manage her own property. 

James A. Rhodes and Dean Jauchius 
have detected some unusual features in the 
two sanity hearings and developed a theory 
that the trials were rigged, primarily by 
Judge David Davis and Leonard Swett, for 
political reasons. The Trial of Mary Todd 
Lincoln is their idea of how Swett and his 
associates used Mary Lincoln as bait to 
lure Robert Lincoln into a political trap. 

Working along this line, the authors re- 
construct the case so as to imply a full-scale 
conspiracy which in several respects vio- 
lated Mary Todd Lincoln's civil rights. 
Their reconstruction presents a court pre- 
pared to rule against Mrs. Lincoln : a hand- 
picked jury selected and sworn in advance, 
almost a score of witnesses and experts 
ready to testify against her, and a lawyer 
assigned to represent her who believed her 

Rhodes and Jauchius believe the evi- 
dence actually presented to establish Mary 

(Continued on back flap) 


I . 

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the Class of 1901 

founded by 




The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2012 with funding from 

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 

The Trial of 
Mary Todd Lincoln 


James A. Rhodes 


Dean Jauchius 





The Library of Congress has cataloged 
this publication as follows: 

Rhodes, James A. 

The trial of Mary Todd Lincoln, by James A. Rhodes and 
Dean Jauchius. [lsted.] Indianapolis, Bobbs-Merrill [1959]. 

200 p. 22 cm. 
Includes bibliography. 

1. Lincoln, Mary (Todd) 1818-1882 — Fiction. I. Jauchius, Dean, 
joint author, n. Title. 

PZ4.R478Tr 813.5 59-7225 $ 

Library of Congress. 


Counsel for the Defense 

It is easy to think of Mary Todd Lincoln as one of 
the heavy burdens Abraham Lincoln bore without 
complaint. According to tradition, she was unpredict- 
able, hysterical and unbalanced. Lincoln students in 
the main have accepted this estimate without fully 
examining the facts. Some, indeed, have done her the 
injustice of apologizing for her. 

The authors undertook to find out whether history 
had treated her fairly. On the surface, the sanity hear- 
ing which declared her a lunatic was the most damag- 
ing count against her. In their investigation of this 
proceeding they discovered something wrong. She was 
no more eccentric than many around her. The authors' 
digging uncovered a strong odor of kangaroo court. 
The brazen injustice of this trial, the high-handed 
denial of her civil rights made a travesty of the verdict 

6 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

and called for a broader re-examination. They found 
that during the years in the White House she had let 
herself appear in an unflattering light in order to shield 
and guard her husband. They came to hold an entirely 
new picture of this anguished woman. 

The authors were convinced that Mary deserved her 
day in court, and had never had it. And certainly she 
deserved a more sincere and searching defense than 
she was ever given. 

Neither in the mental hospital to which she was 
condemned, nor at any time previously, had she had 
any of the benefits of modern psychiatric treatment. 
She stood alone, unprotected. Because of her valiant 
struggle and because of her great love and devotion to 
her immortal husband and her sons, she deserves a 
better niche in our history than the one to which she 
has been consigned. 

The legal and medical philosophy behind the "snake 
pit" laws which summarily "put her away" operates 
today. In large areas of the country many of these 
same laws are still in force. 

These are our thoughts as we complete The Trial 
of Mary Todd Lincoln. 

James A. Rhodes 
Dean Jauchius 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

Chapter 1 

A little more than ten years after the death of her 
martyred husband, Mrs. Abraham Lincoln was placed 
under arrest, taken into custody under threat of vio- 
lence, hailed summarily into a courtroom — before a 
jury already impaneled, sworn and waiting — tried, 
found insane, ordered confined in an institution and 
stripped of approximately $56,000 in cash and se- 

By nightfall of the following day, she sat alone in 
the gloom of a room with barred windows, branded 
by court order as "Mary Lincoln, Lunatic." And in 
the enforced solitude of that room, she could con- 
template that she had been made the victim of an 
elaborately contrived and smoothly executed plot to 
put her away. She could ponder the fact that three 
of the men involved most prominently in that plot- 
ting had been intimate friends of her late husband. 
Indeed, two of them had maneuvered for him the Re- 

10 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

publican presidential nomination of 1860 and then 
prodded and pushed him down the political trail to 
the White House. Mary Todd Lincoln could think, 
too, that this scheme which they had planned so care- 
fully against her had, to achieve its end, required 
denial of every constitutional and statutory right af- 
forded the accused. And she could reflect, bitterly, 
that it had utilized as its primary instrument her eld- 
est and only surviving son. It was cruel irony that 
through his eldest son, men who had been his best 
friends had managed to take away the freedom of 
the desolate and troubled widow of the man univer- 
sally hailed as "The Great Emancipator." 

It actually happened. 

The place was Chicago, Illinois. 

The day was Tuesday, May 19, 1875. 

The first sound of it, for Mary Todd Lincoln, an- 
guished widow, was a knock at the door of her room 
in the Chicago Grand Pacific Hotel. 

The time was about 1:00 p.m. Here are the facts: 

When Mary Lincoln opened that hotel-room door, 
three people greeted her. They were a delivery boy, 
Leonard T. Swett, a prominent Chicago lawyer who 
had helped secure the presidential nomination for 
Abraham Lincoln at the convention of 1860, and 
Samuel M. Turner, manager of the hotel. 

The bundle boy delivered eight pairs of lace cur- 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 11 

tains which Mary Lincoln had purchased earlier in 
the day. He left immediately. Swett, who wrote later 
that Mary Lincoln seemed cheerful and glad to see 
him, entered the room followed by Sam Turner, and 
advised Mrs. Lincoln that she was under arrest. About 
that time, according to Swett, Turner left the room. 

Mary Lincoln was ladylike but firm. The conten- 
tion that she was insane was preposterous. She was 
abundantly able to care for herself. Where was her 
son Robert? Who claimed she was insane? 

Swett told her that Robert was waiting for her at 
the courtroom. * He advised her that it was her son 
who had filed the affidavit necessary to bring her to 
trial. He said Judge David Davis, conservator of her 
late husband's estate and the most prominent manipu- 
lator in Lincoln's behalf at the national convention of 
1860, believed her crazy. So did John T. Stuart, 
mayor of Springfield and her cousin, he added. So 
did he, Swett, and so did five physicians. Swett pro- 
duced letters from the physicians for Mary to see. 

Mary Lincoln decided stubbornly that she would 
not go with Swett to the courtroom. Swett said she 
had no choice in the matter. She had two alternatives, 
though, as concerned how she was to be taken to court. 
She could either go peaceably with him, or be hand- 
cuffed and taken forcibly by two officers now waiting 
downstairs. Which would it be? 

12 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

Mary Lincoln chose to resist with words alone. 
They were bitter, sarcastic words. She denounced 
Swett and Judge Davis and Robert. She accused them 
of having mercenary motives. And yet, Swett testi- 
fies, she was ever the lady, never stooping to use of 
common words or phrases. 

When she had finished, Swett insisted again, and he 
was rocklike and unyielding. It was a court order. 
She must go with him or the officers. There was no 

Mary Lincoln wept then. She threw up her hands 
and prayed, and called upon Abraham to release her 
and drive Swett away. And then she gave in. 

Swett testifies that he refused to leave the room so 
that she might change her clothing. He told Mary, 
he says, that he feared she might commit suicide. And 
so the resigned Mary Lincoln, erstwhile first lady of 
the land, stepped into a closet, made the desired 
changes and went along quietly. 

The carriage took Mary Lincoln and her custodian 
to the criminal court and county jail building at West 
Hubbard and North Dearborn streets. A second car- 
riage, bearing the two officers, Turner and Ben Ayer, 
serving with Swett as counsel for Robert Lincoln, 
followed them. 

It must have been nearly 3 : 00 p.m. when the party 
arrived at the courtroom. Swett says that Mary ar- 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 13 

gued with him in her room "from twenty minutes past 
one until half past two." 

At any rate, a jury composed of twelve prominent 
Chicago business and professional men, most of them 
friends of Robert, had been impaneled, sworn and 
waiting since two o'clock. The courtroom was filling 
slowly with spectators. The increasing flow of them 
measured the speed with which word of the nature of 
this proceeding was flashing throughout the building. 

Swett says that, when he opened the courtroom 
door and Mary Lincoln saw the men inside, she re- 
coiled, and he urged her to come right along, saying 
that Robert was there and that he would sit beside 
her. Thus assured, Mary Lincoln entered quietly and 
sat down without speaking. 

Swett went immediately to Robert, told him how 
his mother had denounced him at the hotel and testi- 
fies that he said: "We must act as though we were her 
friends and come sit beside her and do everything as 
though she was sane." 

Robert walked to his mother, and she received him 
kindly. Swett says he told Mrs. Lincoln that she was 
entitled to counsel, that Isaac N. Arnold, her old 
friend, was present, and that "he was your husband's 
friend and maybe you would rather have him and 
Robert sit beside you than have a stranger brought 
in here." 

14 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

Mary Lincoln agreed and Swett soon had Arnold 
sitting with her. 

Swett says he then went to Ben Ayer and advised 
his colleague that the experience with Mrs. Lincoln 
had tired him. He urged Ayer to take over. 

But as they were conversing, Arnold, who had con- 
ferred briefly with Mary Lincoln, approached them 
and expressed doubt about the propriety of defending 
Mary. He expressed a belief that she was insane. 

"This means," Swett says he retorted, "that you 
will put into her head that she can get some mis- 
chievous lawyer to make us trouble; go and defend 
her, and do your duty." 

The well-oiled courtroom machinery, waiting and 
ready since 2:00 p.m., got into motion immediately 
after this exchange. On the bench was Judge M. R. M. 
Wallace, a Democrat and known political enemy of 
the late President Lincoln. He observed that the trial 
was a hearing on an application to try the question of 
the sanity of Mrs. Lincoln, and to appoint a con- 
servator for her estate. Robert Lincoln's petition, he 
told the jury, represented to the court that Mary Lin- 
coln, widow of Abraham Lincoln, deceased, and a resi- 
dent of Cook County, was insane, and that for her 
benefit and for the safety of the community she 
should be confined. 

The petition also prayed that a conservator be 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • IS 

appointed to manage and control Mary Lincoln's 
estate, and estimated it to be valued "not exceeding 

Robert Todd Lincoln's position was that he should 
be named conservator. Judge Davis, handling his late 
father's estate, was much too busy, he contended. 

Specifically, then, Robert Lincoln wanted the court 
to do two things: 1. Send his mother to an asylum. 
2. Permit him to take over her estate. 

To support his contention that his mother was a 
lunatic, Robert Lincoln had summoned seventeen wit- 
nesses. With at least some of these witnesses, the 
testimony they were to give had been carefully gone 
over. There is reason to believe that all of the wit- 
nesses had been present at pretrial conferences. 

By way of contrast, Mary Lincoln, the accused, had 
not even been given time to select her own defense 
attorney. One had conveniently been provided for 
her. She had been given no opportunity to summon 
friendly witnesses and no time to prepare a defense 
against a charge and testimony to support it which 
had been carefully assembled over a three-week pe- 
riod. She had been denied the statutory right of par- 
ticipating in the selection of the jury of her peers 
through interrogation of prospective jurors and the 
exercising of peremptory challenges which might be 
deemed to be in her best interests. 

16 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

In short, she was being railroaded in a courtroom 
pungent with a kangaroo odor and manned by a jury 
having about it the air of one impaneled to convict. 

In the next three hours a parade of seventeen wit- 
nesses piled up a mountain of damaging testimony, 
loaded with hearsay and with conclusions by those 
testifying. And this testimony was neither challenged 
nor examined by a meek little defense attorney famed 
for representing and obtaining acquittals for women 
in trouble with the law. The right of cross-examina- 
tion was not invoked. 

Ayer had conducted the case for the plaintiff so far. 
Now that the final witness, Robert Todd Lincoln 
himself, had finished, Swett took over again. He pre- 
sented the final argument for the plaintiff to the jury, 
saying that it was too bad about Mary Lincoln but 
she was plainly deranged and must be put away. And 
so the man who had first urged Robert to take this 
action, and who then had served as Mary Lincoln's 
arresting officer and custodian, now assumed the role 
of prosecutor. He called for a quick verdict and got it. 
The jurors deliberated for perhaps a full two minutes 
and found Mary Lincoln insane. The specific wording 
of the verdict which they managed to prepare and 
sign in that brief space of time was: 

"We the undersigned, jurors in the case of Mary 
Lincoln who is alleged to be insane, having heard the 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 17 

evidence adduced, are satisfied that the said Mary 
Lincoln is insane, and is a fit person to be sent to the 
State Hospital for the Insane: that she is a resident 
of the County of Cook, in the State of Illinois: that 
her age is 56 years; that her disease is of unknown 
duration ; that the cause is unknown ; that the disease 
is not with her hereditary; that she is not subject to 
epilepsy: that she does not manifest homicidal or sui- 
cidal tendencies and that she is not a pauper." 

It was nearly a month before the court got around 
to answering the second prayer in Robert Lincoln's 
petition by appointing him conservator of his mother's 
estate. But the court's first decision was quite prompt. 
Judge Wallace immediately ruled: 

"Whereupon, upon the verdict aforesaid, it is con- 
sidered and adjudged by the Court that the said Mary 
Lincoln is an insane person, and it is ordered that said 
Mary Lincoln be committed to a State Hospital for 
the Insane, and it is further ordered that a summons 
be issued to the said Mary Lincoln commanding her to 
appear before this Court and show cause if any she 
has or can show why a conservator should not be 
appointed to manage and control her estate." 

In less than five hours — one hour and ten minutes 
of this time consumed by Mary's argument with 
Swett in her hotel room — Abraham Lincoln's widow 
had been arrested, tried, found guilty and ordered im- 

18 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

prisoned. Now it remained for her to be relieved of 
her wealth. Swett, instigator, architect, arresting of- 
ficer, custodian and prosecutor, now took it on himself 
to perform this final chore. 

From the moment of her entry into the courtroom, 
Swett testifies, "she never spoke." Now, she sought 
to evade this final surrender of what she called "these 
bonds I have saved for my necessities in my old age." 
Swett threatened force again. He pointed out that he 
could get an order of writ or have the sheriff take 
them forcibly from her. He asked her to turn them 
over to Robert. 

Mary refused. Robert, she said, could never have 
anything that belonged to her. 

Swett suggested that she turn the securities over 
to Arnold. Mary suggested that it be done in her 
hotel room. "It is so hot here." 

At her room in the Grand Pacific they took them 
from her, and Swett says of the act, "and when she 
did yield, although she yielded peaceably, she yielded 
as to force." 

Swett arranged for her care during the night and 
left. Newspapers were informed the following morn- 
ing that Mary Todd Lincoln had made an unsuccess- 
ful attempt to poison herself. They printed the story. 

Mary Lincoln was not sent to the State Hospital 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 19 

for the Insane, as was suggested by the jury's verdict. 
Instead, she was taken to Bellevue Place Sanatorium, 
a private institution owned and operated by Dr. R. J. 
Patterson at Batavia, Illinois. 

This first sanity trial of Mary Todd Lincoln has 
remained among the more obscure episodes in Ameri- 
can history. Historians have been loath to illuminate 
it. Lincoln students have tended to avoid careful 
scrutiny of it. 

But if they have given this first trial short notice, 
they have given the second one even less attention. 
It, too, had the same peculiar flavor as the first. It 
lasted less than four minutes. Mary Lincoln was 
found restored to reason and given her freedom. Her 
lawyer was Leonard Swett ! 

There are probably many valid reasons why his- 
torians have given such scant attention to this peculiar 
and coldly brutal treatment of Lincoln's aging widow. 
Certainly, one of them is that the transcript of the 
trial has long since disappeared. The exact circum- 
stances of its disappearance are not known. It is 
known that the son who was used as the instrument 
for bringing his mother to trial and subsequent in- 
carceration in an asylum expressed intent to do away 
with certain records pertaining to the action. 

20 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

But if the disappearance of these papers is a valid 
reason for failure to illuminate the trial or trials, it 
also is a stimulant to one's curiosity. 

Mary Todd Lincoln regarded the entire episode as 
simply a plot to get her money, and she said so. How- 
ever, in the light of subsequent events, this explana- 
tion reeks too much of the easy answer. Her release 
was managed within one year and one month by the 
very man who first suggested the plan to put her away. 
Her money was returned to her, along with a scrupu- 
lous accounting by her son. 

Historians have tended to regard the episode of the 
first trial as a painful incident in the life of a tragic 
figure who had suffered such blows that they deranged 
her. But Mary Lincoln continued to exhibit, after 
regaining her freedom, those same eccentricities which 
were used to convince a jury of her derangement. 

Granted that Mary Lincoln possessed more than 
the usual number of eccentricities, it is not to be as- 
sumed that she was possessed by them. Indeed, many 
of them are quite understandable and are manifested 
today in many, many persons whose sanity goes un- 

In Mary Lincoln, much more so than in most peo- 
ple, the eccentricities are understandable. Her search 
for love and understanding after the death of her hus- 
band and three of her four children seemed a futile 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 21 

one. She turned for friendship to the clerks in stores 
which she patronized. It is an understatement to re- 
mark that there was a "misunderstanding" between 
Mary Todd Lincoln, the lonely widow, and Mary 
Harlan Lincoln, Robert's wife. The feeling was suf- 
ficiently strong to prevent Robert's mother from visit- 
ing his home in Chicago. 

Abraham Lincoln had been dead for ten years at 
the time of Mary's first trial, and yet the hatreds and 
the malevolence unleashed by the angry controversy 
which had him at its storm center still seethed across 
the land. Even the great financial panic which had 
gripped the country since 1873 could not deter those 
men who were dedicated to seeking out strange ven- 
geances against Lincoln's memory. 

But Lincoln had the martyr's cloak across his mem- 
ory now, and he was becoming immortal. His name 
already had risen to such giant proportions that his 
memory would prove unassailable. Nothing could 
damage it. Certainly, the spectacle of a little old lady 
who was his widow sometimes acting strangely could 
not hurt it. Indeed, this could only serve to emphasize 
the extent of the tragedy which had fallen on her and 
on the nation. 

If Leonard Swett, Isaac N. Arnold and Judge David 
Davis had been such close friends of Abraham Lin- 
coln, why would they now turn on his helpless widow 

22 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

and railroad her into an asylum? And why would her 
own son permit himself to be a part of it? Would not 
that do more damage than service to Lincoln's 

None of these three men had changed in their atti- 
tudes toward Lincoln. They defended his good name 
with eloquent ferocity when it came under attack 
after his assassination. 

Indeed, the very existence of such stark contrast 
between Lincoln's known somber honesty and out- 
spoken integrity and the conditions brought on by 
spoilers and looters in power ten years later is what 
suggests a much deeper and more basic political mo- 
tive for the day of infamy in Mary Lincoln's life. 

While Lincoln lived, Springfield and Chicago had 
become the political capitals of the nation. Illinois 
men ruled the political roost. Now, since his death, 
and owing to the flow of favors from the fountainhead 
of power in the White House, the geographical center 
of political power was shifting eastward into Ohio, 
even as the center of population shifted westward to 
the Buckeye State. The spoils system, and excesses in 
Washington, had brought men honestly devoted to 
Lincoln and his integrity up short. A grave split 
ripped through the new Republican Party. Stanch 
supporters of U. S. Grant, or of what Grant stood for, 
became known as Stalwarts. The reformist wing was 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 23 

composed of men who became known as Liberal Re- 
publicans, sometimes called half breeds by the Stal- 

Judge David Davis, the old manipulator who traded 
his way to the nomination of Abraham Lincoln in 
I860, turned furiously on the men whom he believed 
to be destroying his party's integrity. In 1872 he se- 
cured nomination as the National Labor Party's can- 
didate for President and sought nomination by the 
Liberal Republican Party at that convention in Cin- 
cinnati in June. There is strong suspicion that he 
intended to obtain endorsement of his candidacy by 
the Democratic National Convention and by the Lib- 
eral Colored Republican Convention. But the Liberal 
Republican Convention stopped him cold, nominating 
Horace Greeley, distinguished editor of the New York 
Tribune, instead. Greeley went on to win the Demo- 
cratic National Convention nod and the approval of 
the Liberal Colored Republicans only to lose to the 
popular Hero of Appomattox in the fall election. 

If Grant had overcome the liberal wing, however, 
he had not overcome the resentment of its members. 
As 1876— the next convention and election year — 
approached, Grant began to speak of a third term. 
There was too much objecting in the press, however, 
and the Stalwarts began to cast about for a successor. 

Robert Todd Lincoln, a stalwart Stalwart who gave 

24 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

unstintingly of his loyalty to the Grant crowd, was 
yet too much of a sapling for presidential timber, but 
the name was political magic. It could be used. And, 
perhaps four or eight years hence, it would be the 
name which would be used to keep the Stalwarts in 
the White House. 

Judge Davis, veteran politician, could hardly miss 
this. Neither could Leonard Swett nor Isaac N. Ar- 

Robert Lincoln said he regarded Judge David Davis 
as a second father. There is evidence that Davis had 
a similar, reciprocal affection for Robert. But no 
affection, not even devotion to Abraham Lincoln, ever 
swayed Davis from resorting to manipulations to 
achieve victory in a political fight, and now Davis, an 
independent turning Democrat, was in a political 

How to damage Robert Lincoln to prevent him 
from enjoying a political sleigh ride, or providing one 
for the spoilers, on his father's name? How to do it 
and yet leave the sacred memory of Abraham Lincoln 

It makes sense that they found their way to elimi- 
nate Robert Lincoln as a serious political factor in the 
drumhead sanity hearing on May 19 and its after- 
math. They advised Robert Lincoln to push for his 
mother's commitment; they helped him make the ar- 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 25 

rangements and collect his witnesses. Swett made the 
arrest, helped prosecute the case. Arnold was ap- 
pointed to defend Mary Lincoln. After a request for 
postponement was denied, he did almost nothing in 
her behalf. The hearing swept through unchallenged 
to the jury's verdict, which came so fast that it may 
have been written out in advance of the trial. 

Thus Robert Lincoln became the man who com- 
mitted his mother to the insane asylum. Mary Lin- 
coln's letters made it clear to many of her friends that 
she believed he did it to get hold of her money. Before 
long she interested Judge and Mrs. James Bradwell 
in her case. These respected and influential people 
likewise spread the word that she had been wronged 
by her only surviving son. 

After a few months she was "paroled" from the 
mental hospital to her sister's home in Springfield. 
Evidently she was not very crazy. 

On June 15, 1876, James G. Blaine, a Grant Stal- 
wart, was beaten in a strong bid to obtain the presi- 
dential nomination. Governor Rutherford B. Hayes 
of Ohio, a man of reformist sentiments, wrested the 
nomination away from Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll's 
"plumed knight" on the seventh ballot, and the reign 
of the spoilers was apparently over. 

And later in that same day, June 15, Mary Todd 
Lincoln was adjudged sane and her property restored 

26 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

to her control in a proceeding which occupied, accord- 
ing to the Chicago Tribune of the following day, "but 
a few minutes." The timing is suggestive. During the 
intervening thirteen months, the name of Robert Lin- 
coln had been so hammered by an enraged mother and 
by her allies, the Bradwells, that it could well have 
suffered the most devastating political damage. 

The second sanity hearing, which declared Mary 
Todd Lincoln of sound mind and capable of handling 
her own property, must have been as well arranged as 
the first. It lasted less than five minutes. Leonard 
Swett this time was on the other side of the fence 
and represented her. There was no opposition. 

Neither Robert Todd Lincoln nor his name ever 
became a major force in national politics after his 
participation in the sanity proceedings against his 
mother. His last political gasp left him standing at 
the depot in Chicago in 1880 looking after the presi- 
dential band wagon as it pulled out. He had ridden 
through thirty-six convention ballots with Grant, only 
to see his hero finally fall before the late sprint of a 
dark horse named James A. Garfield. 

Robert Todd Lincoln became Garfield's secretary 
of war, an appointment which clearly represented a 
concession to the Stalwarts. He was the only member 
of the official family to be retained by President Ar- 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 27 

thur, the Stalwart Vice President who ascended to 
the White House after Garfield's death from bullet 
wounds inflicted by an assassin. And Arthur's reten- 
tion of Lincoln underscored the fact that the son of 
the Great Emancipator was the only Garfield cabinet 
member fully acceptable to Grant admirers. 

The name of Robert Lincoln was mentioned 
vaguely here and there in 1881 and 1882 as a presi- 
dential possibility for 1884, but there seems to have 
been some stigma attached to his name by then. There 
is ample reason to identify it as the fact that he had 
sent his anguished mother to a lunatic asylum. 

In this nation which her husband had so eloquently 
characterized as "dedicated to the proposition that all 
men are created equal," the most humble person was 
entitled to a fair trial and to a virile defense, and yet 
Mary Lincoln was given no real trial at all and only 
a passive, yielding defense. Presented in the trial 
episode which follows is the kind of defense to which 
she was entitled, even if she had been a nobody, let 
alone the widow of the Great Emancipator. Presented 
are questions which ought to have been put to wit- 
nesses who appeared against her, and the answers 
which those witnesses would have been required to 
give to avoid perjury. 

The outcome of that infamous first trial can never 

28 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

be changed, but with the use of known facts, it is 
possible to uncover the motive which demanded the 
verdict so quickly rendered. 

In a larger sense, the trial of Mary Lincoln was 
much more than her first trying ordeal in that Chicago 
courtroom in 1875 or her second brief encounter with 
a most peculiar brand of justice in 1876 only hours 
after the Stalwarts had been beaten in their bid to 
retain a firm grip on the White House. These were 
but small persecutions in a much longer trial which 
commenced for her on the somber morning of April 
15, 1865, when Abraham Lincoln drew his last breath. 

Mary Todd Lincoln passed away July 16, 1882, at 
Springfield, Illinois, after lapsing into a coma which 
modern men of medicine generally believe to have 
been diabetic. Death came to her in a cheerful room 
of the house in which she and Abraham had become 
man and wife. 

The trial of Mary Todd Lincoln, therefore, did not 
span a few infamous hours. It lasted for seventeen 
years and three months, and the verdict of history is 
that she was innocent. 

Chapter 2 

Without the help, as well as the encouragement, 
of Judge Davis, Leonard Swett and Isaac Arnold, 
it seems unlikely that Robert Lincoln could so easily 
have had his mother committed to a lunatic asylum. 
He had collected seventeen witnesses, including 
amenable doctors who had not examined her, store 
clerks who thought her a little odd and private detec- 
tives whom he had had following her "to protect her," 
but he didn't have a strong case. 

Isaac Arnold, who was appointed to represent Mrs. 
Lincoln, was ordinarily an aggressive and capable law- 
yer. On May 19 he was unaccountably meek. He did 
not protest against the jury's having been selected 
and sworn before Mrs. Lincoln arrived at court and 
without challenge from the defense. He had not in- 
vestigated the witnesses and checked their evidence. 


30 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

He did not cross-examine them and seek to invalidate 
their testimony. In fact, he hardly opened his mouth. 

Without a strong and energetic defense Mrs. Lin- 
coln had no chance before a judge and jury ready to 
rule against her. 

Isaac Arnold, through inability or disinclination, 
did not work up a defense. But even at this distance, 
with many records destroyed, some no doubt indi- 
rectly or directly by Robert Lincoln, it is still possible 
to do what Isaac Arnold did not do — shred the case 
presented by the attorneys and witnesses in behalf of 
Mary Todd Lincoln's insanity. That case has now 
been prepared. The jury has been investigated. The 
witnesses have been checked and their testimony 

Even in a hostile court a strong defense would have 
scored damaging point after damaging point. Very 
likely, with the judge and jury she faced, Mrs. Lin- 
coln would still have been judged insane, but the 
verdict would have been in spite of, not in accord 
with, the facts presented. 

The next few chapters will present the events of 
May 19, 1875, again but with one difference. Instead 
of an Isaac Arnold tacitly consenting to his client's 
commitment to a lunatic asylum, she will be repre- 
sented by a vigorous lawyer with a well-prepared de- 
fense. Call him Isaac Arnold, the Isaac Arnold who 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln -31 

was ordinarily an aggressive bulldog of a lawyer, a 
hard fighter for his clients. In challenging the jury, 
in cross-examining witnesses, he will make use of facts 
that were available at the time and are available still, 
facts that have been verified before they were allowed 
to appear here. 

To repeat, the trial as it will be told in the follow- 
ing chapters never happened. It could have happened, 
and in justice it should have happened. Was the 
reason it did not a conspiracy on the part of Lincoln's 
old friends to prevent his son from siding with the 
spoilers in Washington and tearing down his father's 
work? You are the jury. Follow the case and decide. 

Mary Lincoln consulted her chatelaine watch with 
sober, bluish-gray eyes and felt faintly startled. A 
quarter after eleven! 

Goodness! she thought. I must hurry about this. 
There is so little time. 

She cast a casual glance over her shoulder, as if it 
were meant only to take in the pleasant May day in 
Chicago. The man was still there. He always seemed 
to be there. Why did men follow her? Would they 
never stop? Did they want to harm her? 

Mary Lincoln did not know, but the old fear drove 
through her and hurried her stride. Perhaps she ought 
to have remained in the hotel room, but there was 

32 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

something about a hotel room which always depressed 
her. She had been glad to get out of it. Besides, it 
was such a pleasant day, although the streets were 
still muddy from recent rains. She did not look, but 
she told herself that the dust ruffle of her black suit 
dress must be terribly smudged with mud. 

It was all right, she told herself. She had found a 
friend, and today she would present that friend with 
a token of her esteem. A chatelaine watch similar to 
the one she wore. The girl named Beatrice had ad- 
mired it so. 

She turned her mind back to the hotel room. It 
was the small window that bothered her most, she 
decided. It formed a perfect frame for the chimney 
on the building next door. It was a chimney which 
constantly gave off black smoke, and this reminded 
her of the great Chicago fire. She wouldn't be at all 
surprised, she thought, if Chicago were to burn again. 
It was rickety, really, behind its f agaded splendor. 

Mary Lincoln could remember the great fire very 
clearly. It had come in that somber October after 
Tad's death at the Clifton House in July. That was 
why she had not gone back to the Clifton House upon 
her return to Chicago. She thought now of Tad. 
Kind, sweet, loving Tad. 

The old anguish shot through her. She was not 
superstitious, but she told herself that somehow she 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 33 

would always regard the great Chicago fire of 1871 
as a sort of omen. Tad, she reflected, had been the 
last of her sons who loved her, and after his passing, 
her life had lain about her in ashes, as the great Chi- 
cago business district was reduced to ashes. 

Robert did not love her. Not really. She could see 
it in his eyes. Robert was cold, and he mixed with 
people who hated her. She sighed, wondering why 
people hated her so. Why? 

Robert, she thought with an expression of distaste, 
was a Grant man. Mary Lincoln had never liked 
General Grant. Now she was indignant at what he 
was doing. Her generous mouth set itself firmly. 
Abraham would never have permitted such goings on. 
She told herself grimly that she would have seen to 

She turned her mind back to Tad. In some ways, 
it seemed only yesterday that he had gasped his last 
in the room filled with pain and anguish at the Clifton 
House. And in others, it seemed so much longer than 
four years ago. Here it was May 19, 1875. How time 
does fly! She had been at the Grand Pacific Hotel 
now for two months. Two months ago last Saturday. 

Mary halted uncertainly before the embossed 
faqade of Matson and Company. She felt her bonnet, 
perched securely on her rich brown hair. This was 
the store where she had seen and ordered the watch. 

34 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

She entered, her kid-gloved hands at the mourning 
brooch beneath her cape; she could visualize the pic- 
ture of Abraham on it now. 

"May I help you, madame?" 

She had not seen the clerk approach. He had come 
up behind her. His voice startled her. She turned to 
face him. He knew her, of course. He was studying 
her intently. There was a strangeness in his eyes. 

"I have come for the watch/' she said simply. "The 
one I admired yesterday. Do you have it wrapped?" 

The clerk said yes, he did have. He had had it gift- 
wrapped as she wanted. Was there anything else? 

That would be all for now, she said. 

"Will you take it with you, madame, or shall I have 
it delivered?" The clerk looked embarrassed. 

Mary said she would take it with her. She was 
thinking that she would have no more of this delivery 
business. Somehow, Robert always seemed to find 
out, and he would have her purchases returned. 

The clerk handed the watch to her, and she saw 
that the strangeness remained in his eyes. It made her 
uncomfortable. She moved quickly through the door- 
way and into the warm May sunshine again. Once 
she looked back. The man was still following. Splin- 
ters of apprehension raced through her. Did he mean 
her harm? Was he some crank? One of Abraham's 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 35 

enemies, perhaps? Abraham had had so many ene- 
mies and they would not leave him alone. Not even 

Mary Lincoln shrugged imperceptibly. What did 
it matter, really? They could never harm Abraham's 
name now. He had been too big for them, a giant 
among men. She managed a mysterious little smile, 
which came to her sober eyes and mouth in her 
smooth, round, unwrinkled face, and then left 

She found the walk to the Charles Gossageand Com- 
pany store most invigorating. Weariness had edged 
her mind that morning for she had been quite unable 
to sleep last night. Men kept following her. They 
even followed her into the hotel. She reflected grimly 
that Sam Turner, the manager, didn't believe her. 
Neither did Mrs. Allen, the housekeeper at the hotel, ' 
nor Maggie Gavin, the maid. They just didn't under- 
stand her. 

Was it unnatural to walk the floor when one 
couldn't sleep? Mary Lincoln thought not. She had 
done that as long as she could remember. So had 
Abraham, when he lived. Often, late at night, she had 
found him walking the floor at the White House. 

There were a number of people abroad for such an 
awkward hour of the morning. Some of them seemed 

36 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

to know her, and nodded. She nodded back. The 
gentlemen tipped their hats. She thought that the 
ladies ' eyes seemed curious. 

She found Beatrice at the curtain counter, where 
she always was. Mary Lincoln liked Beatrice very 
much. She was a charming, lively-faced, merry-eyed 
young woman. And such manners! She had fine man- 
ners for a salesperson. Mary reflected that most sales- 
persons she had known were inclined either to be 
abrupt or obsequious to the point of being nauseating. 
Beatrice was simply and genuinely affectionate. Some- 
times, Mary Lincoln told herself, it was as though 
Beatrice were her daughter. She felt the old grief 
run through her then. She had always wanted a 
daughter. Could she have had a daughter, she re- 
flected, she would have liked her to be like Beatrice. 

Beatrice greeted her warmly. "My dear Mrs. Lin- 
coln! How nice to see you again! Isn't it a lovely 
day? There is something about May days, I always 
say. A fine day for a little stroll." A pleasant smile 
was on Beatrice's lovely face. "You look very well, 
Mrs. Lincoln. Are you sleeping better now?" 

Mary Lincoln said yes, she was, thank you, think- 
ing that a little white lie was understandable here. 
No use to trouble such a sweet child. "My dear young 
lady! You yourself look tired. Are you working so 
terribly hard these days?" 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln *37 

Beatrice said wryly not as hard as she'd like. It was 
the depression. Wasn't it terrible, though? So many 
people out of work. "Not many people come here to 
purchase fine lace curtains such as these now. I do 
hope they will keep me on here. The good Lord knows 
it is little enough salary I draw as it is. They seem 
to dislike women clerks, you see." 

Mary Lincoln removed her kid gloves and extended 
one small hand to feel the curtains. They were very 
fine curtains. Very fine indeed. There had never been 
better ones than this in the White House. 

"They are lovely, my dear. I suppose you do have 
little call for them, though, since the panic." 

"Almost none at all." Beatrice sighed. "People are 
most reluctant to buy." 

"I shall take eight pairs of them," Mary Lincoln 

Beatrice's blue eyes showed her surprise. Then she 
blushed. "Oh, you needn't, really, ma'am. I did not 
mean it that way at all. I did not mean that you 
should buy some. . . ." 

"It is all right, my dear. I shall need them one day, 
perhaps. Have them delivered to my room at the 
Grand Pacific." 

"But . . ." 

"No buts now, young lady. You have been very 
kind to me." 

38 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"Very well, Mrs. Lincoln. I'll have a bundle boy 
bring them around." She hesitated. "Will it be the 
usual charge?" 

"No," Mary Lincoln decided. "No, I shall pay for 
them. I have some money today, you see. I have 
cashed one of my bonds." 

Beatrice's eyes were on the chatelaine watch now. 
It gleamed expensively against the somber black of 
Mary Lincoln's clothing. 

"It is such a pretty watch," Beatrice said. "I have 
always admired it." 

"I know," Mary said. "It gave me a thought, my 
dear." She hesitated, then lifted the small, gift- 
wrapped box and placed it before her on the counter. 
"May I present you with a token of my esteem, my 
dear young lady? You have been so kind and friendly 
to me." 

"Oh, Mrs. Lincoln. You shouldn't do these things! 
Only last week it was the perfume. Such expensive 
perfume, Mrs. Lincoln!" Beatrice's eyes were stab- 
bing curiously at the package. 

"Please," Mary Lincoln said. "You are a friend, 
dear young lady. Friends are such a blessing. I have 
so few real friends, you see." 

Beatrice lifted the box carefully and then her slen- 
der fingers were working eagerly at its wrappings. At 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 39 

last, she had it open and she turned wide blue eyes 
to Mary. 

"How lovely!" 

Mary Lincoln could see the tears starting. "Please, 
child. Don't weep. It is as if you were a daughter, 
you see. I have always wanted a daughter. Abraham 
did, too." Mary Lincoln paused. "Dear, kind Abra- 
ham. How he would have spoiled a daughter!" 

"But I just couldn't, Mrs. Lincoln. I mean, we 
are not supposed to accept gifts." 

"Not accept gifts?" Mary Lincoln's smooth face 
grew stern. "Who says you are not allowed to accept 
gifts? Not allowed to accept offerings from the heart? 
My dear young lady, you will keep this watch." A 
plaintive note crept into her voice. She could not keep 
it out. "Keep it and remember me as a friend." 

"Oh, Mrs. Lincoln." Beatrice was suddenly 
around the counter and embracing her. "Mother 
Lincoln. Who can say anything about you? You are 
so kind and good." 

"There, there, my dear." Mary Lincoln felt a 
mother's tenderness surge through her. This was a 
sweet child. "There, there. Abraham and I have 
many enemies, you see. I think sometimes that even 
the worst of these do not know truly what it is 
they do." 

40 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

Mary had quieted the sobbing girl. Now she 
turned slowly. She must go. She looked at her own 
watch again. After noon! She must hurry. The 
thought of lunch was not palatable to her. Neither 
was the thought of returning to her room. But she 
must go. She looked for the strange man. He was not 
there now. She turned back to Beatrice. 

"There will be a man here inquiring about me 
soon," she said. "Do not tell him that I have pur- 
chased anything. They do not understand, you see, 
what my true need for such things is. No, do not tell 
him about this purchase and do not tell him where I 
am going. Why won't they leave me alone? Why do 
they follow me? What do they mean to do?" 

"You look strange, Mrs. Lincoln. Out of your eyes, 
I mean. Is there something wrong?" Beatrice's yet 
moist blue eyes were filled with anxiety now. 

"No." Mary Lincoln sighed. "No, nothing is 
wrong. My enemies are about me, you see, ready to 
strike again and again at my husband's memory 
through me. I suppose, my dear child, that they think 
that I do not know this. They close in upon me these 
days." Her generous mouth was set firmly. "But I 
shall triumph in the end. Mark my words, my child. 
I shall triumph." 

The walk back to the hotel was very pleasant. She 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 41 

was glad, now, that she had not taken the carriage. 
The street banks were steep, anyway, and made it 
very awkward for a lady. She felt better, too, for 
having given Beatrice the watch. It made her feel so 
good to do such things for her friends. Of all of the 
things in the world, Mary Todd Lincoln told herself, 
the greatest was to be surrounded by good friends. 
She knew why it was she felt this way. Love and 
affection had been ripped abruptly from her life. A 
woman needs love and affection, she thought. A 
woman needs them desperately. 

The doorman at the Grand Pacific bowed, as al- 
ways, but she detected a strangeness in his eyes, too. 
The elevator operator watched her slyly, and she 
wished she had not become so frightened the other 
night. To think of it now embarrassed her. Imagine 
running to the elevator in one's night clothing like a 
frightened child with a fever! She told herself she 
would not do that again, regardless of how frightened 
she might become. 

There was something almost desolate about the 
room, in spite of its sumptuous furnishings. It 
seemed to close in on her as she entered. She stared 
at the small window, watching the black smoke belch 
from the chimney beyond it. Again she thought of 

42 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

Poor Tad! It was terrible the way the boys back 
in Springfield used to tease him. Tongue-tied Tad 
they had called him. 

That was why she had taken him to Europe. She 
wanted to get him away from them. He was such a 
bright child. It had helped, too. His diction had im- 
proved tremendously. And then — the trip home. She 
ought not to have come home, really. She had told 
herself that at the time, but she was ill and her spirits 
were low. The sea had been very rough. Heavy seas, 
the captain had called them. It was during the trip 
that Tad had taken the cold which brought his death. 
Mary Lincoln felt the tears coming and pressed them 
back. She took off her bonnet and cape, and then 
moved to the picture of her husband. She picked 
it up. 

"Dear Abraham. They have said so many evil 
things about you, my dear," she said softly. "So 
many evil things. Men who pretended to be your 
friends. Men such as Herndon. How lonely are these 
years now that Tad, too, is gone! All of you have 
gone. Eddie, Willie, you, Tad. Love has gone, leav- 
ing only bitter ashes. Our enemies nourish, Abraham. 
They have made a mockery of the truth and of those 
things which you would have done. Were it not for 
this anger at them which stirs within me, I might 
have had done with it long ago. You must forgive me 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 43 

for this, Abraham. I have not your strength of char- 
acter, you see — your great compassion. They wrong 
us and I want to forgive them, but I cannot. These 
are bitter, bitter days for the Lincoln name." 

Mary Lincoln rose, setting the picture down, and 
strode to a window. Then she turned back to the pic- 
ture, twisting off the wedding band on her finger to 
study the words engraved inside. They were still 
faintly legible. "Love is eternal," she muttered, rais- 
ing sober blue-gray eyes again to the picture. 

"Ah, Abraham, but that was sweet. Love is eter- 
nal? Yes, I think it is. It stays with me these trying 
years as nothing else. I feel it, sometimes, when I am 
troubled and when I am not quite myself. You were 
so gentle for such a big man and to think they said 
that you were awkward! Is there awkwardness in 
the grace of such love as ours? O Lord, help me to 
stand his absence until that time when I may be with 
him again. Give me his strength to stand these things 
they say. Give me his wisdom to deal with villainy." 

Mary Lincoln stirred then and moved to her favor- 
ite chair. She must have some lunch. They had told 
her to eat regularly. She did not feel hunger now. 
Weariness assailed her. Why was it, she wondered, 
that her face did not betray this great weariness? She 
rose and walked to the mirror. Her rich brown hair 
remained fine and unfaded. There were no lines on 

44 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

her smooth face. In the eyes, perhaps, there was a 
kind of anguish. Nothing more. She sighed and re- 
turned to the chair. 

Drowsiness assailed her. She dozed. Eddie was 
speaking to her now. Dear little Eddie. Only four. 
They had told her it was diphtheria. He was stran- 
gling, explaining to her in their Springfield home why 
it was that his tall, somber father was not with him 
at this hour. 

"Papa don to tapila," he was saying. Papa gone 
to the capital. Congressman Lincoln was, indeed, in 
Washington. And a son was dying in Springfield. 

The explosion startled her and she made a peculiar 
motion as if to dab at her dress. It was there, where 
the sleeve ballooned from the shoulder, that the blood 
had spattered. And Abraham had fallen forward so 
loosely. Dear God! He's been shot! 

Another explosion! No. No, it was a knocking. 
Someone was knocking at the door. She rose drowsily, 
feeling dizzy, and put a hand on the chair to steady 
herself. Then both hands went to her hair. She must 
look a fright! 

"One moment !" She said it with the voice of a 
stranger and moved slowly toward the door. It would 
be the bundle boy, of course, with the curtains. 
Where to put them? In one of the trunks, she sup- 
posed. She really shouldn't have purchased them. 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 45 

Not really. But Beatrice was such a sweet child. 

She flipped the latch and opened the door. The 
bundle boy, obscured by the packages he carried and 
staggering under the load, entered. Mary Lincoln 
fixed startled bluish-gray eyes on the men behind the 
boy. Sam Turner, the Grand Pacific manager. And 
Leonard T. Swett, the prominent attorney who had 
been one of Abraham's good friends. 

The two men stepped across the threshold and 
Swett bowed slightly. The boy was fiddling with the 
packages. He managed to set them down quickly and 
departed. Mary Lincoln's hands flew again to her 
mussed hair. Then one hand dropped to the mourning 

Swett, tall, spare, muscular and florid-faced, 
stroked his beard and watched her soberly. She saw, 
too, the strangeness in Turner's eyes. 

"Gentlemen, you must excuse my appearance." 
She was thinking of the mud on her skirt. 

Swett moved to the chair, fidgeting with his hat, 
and then motioned to it. "Never mind your hair, 
Mrs. Lincoln. Sit down here. I have some bad news 
for you." 

Daggers of anxiety drove themselves through her. 
Robert? Something must have happened to Robert. 
Ah, her poor, fragile boys ! The old fear rose in her. 
Not her last living son? She had believed him to be 

46 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

ill when she left Jacksonville. That was why she had 
come. She had sensed it. No. No. She had read it 
somewhere. Robert had been ill. 

Mary Lincoln's knees suddenly felt weak. She sat 
down abruptly, turning startled eyes to Swett. She 
was vaguely aware that Sam Turner had left the 

Swett cleared his throat. "Mrs. Lincoln/' he said 
sonorously, "your friends have with great unanimity 
come to the conclusion that the troubles you have 
been called to pass through have been too much and 
have produced mental disease." 

The words slapped cruelly at her comprehension. 
What was this man saying? What did he mean? 

"You mean," she said softly, "to say I am crazy, 
then, do you?" 

"Yes." Swett sighed almost as if with relief at 
having got it into the open. "Yes. I regret to say 
that is what your friends all think." 

Her friends indeed ! Mary felt switches of fear and 
anger now. No friends of hers! These were her ene- 
mies — enemies of the Lincoln name ! But not Leonard 
Swett. Could he have changed? Could he be turn- 
ing against Abraham? 

Mary experienced swirls of confusion. What was 
going on here? She turned to her God. I shall fear no 
evil, she thought, for thou art with me. She shouted 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 47 

down her shrieking nerves and spoke calmly. "I am 
much obliged to you, but I am abundantly able to care 
for myself, and I don't need any aid from such friends. 
Where is my son Robert? I want him to come here." 

"You will see him in court," Swett said bluntly. 

In court indeed? Could it be that they had gone 
this far? 

"The court? What . . . court . . . do . . . you . . . 
mean?" Mary Lincoln's round, smooth face set 
firmly. "Who says I am insane?" 

"Judge Davis says so, and your cousin, John T. 
Stuart; Robert says so; and I do not want to throw 
the responsibility of this on others. I say so." 

Swett was avoiding her eyes, but his voice was 
firm with determination. His face swam before her. 
Swett? Judge Davis? She had long known that they 
did not care for her. But Abraham — they revered 
her husband. Something was terribly amiss. Swett's 
face swam before her. Robert? Robert? Waiting 
in court . . . ? 

Could this be political treachery? Did they want 
her out of the way? 

No, she decided tiredly. It didn't fit. This was . . . 
she managed a grim little smile. It was almost bi- 
partisan. Robert was a Stalwart Republican, a Grant 
adherent. Swett and Davis hated Grant and all he 
stood for. 

48 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

My last son, she thought tiredly. My last son has 
left me completely now. Now I truly am all alone. 
And from deep within her a great sob of anguish and 
of yearning welled up and up, building as it came, 
and at last it burst from her. Mary Lincoln felt as if 
she surely must choke from the ring of cold, menacing 
hostility now being drawn so closely about her. 

Her hand, fluttering nervously, fell to the chate- 
laine watch, and she thought of Beatrice. It com- 
forted her. 

"I have a friend," she said defensively. "I have a 
friend. That I know." 

Chapter 3 

Why had her son forsaken her, his mother? Mary 
Todd Lincoln rose majestically from her chair in the 
room which suddenly seemed to be stifling her. There 
was determination in her stance. It was in her mouth 
and eyes, too. 

She would not yield, she thought. Robert had 
joined the Pharisees about her. He was a Grant Stal- 
wart, a spoils system man. But why had Swett as- 
sumed the role of the Trojan Horse? It drove puzzle- 
ment through her again, and she stepped back in con- 
fusion. Then she decided. The enemies of Abraham 
must be at her throat. She must not yield to them. 

Avoiding her eyes, Swett pulled from a pocket sev- 
eral letters and offered them to Mary. 

"What are these?" she demanded. "I shall not be 
served by you with any papers. Go away." 


50 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"These are letters, Mrs. Lincoln. They have been 
prepared by five prominent Chicago physicians." 

"What have these to do with me?" Mary wanted 
to know. "I need no physicians now. I need friends 
to help me." 

"They are opinions establishing your insanity, 
madame," Swett replied coldly. She could see im- 
patience in his eyes. 

"My insanity indeed." Mary let rage into her eyes, 
but her voice remained soft. "I haven't seen these 
physicians. They do not come to see me. They know 
nothing about me. What does this mean?" 

Swett's mouth set grimly. "It means that you are 
under arrest, Mrs. Lincoln. Permit me to explain to 
you that when a person is believed to be insane, an 
affidavit must be filed in the county court, whereupon 
a writ is issued. Ordinarily, the sheriff takes this writ 
and proceeds to arrest the party and take him or her 
to court. In this case, Robert has made the affidavit. 
Two officers have come along with me, but I was con- 
strained not to permit your person to be seized by 
officers and forcibly taken to court. Therefore, I have 
come in lieu of the officers to request that you go along 
with me." 

Mary Todd Lincoln flatly refused. Was she an 
animal to be dragged off so abruptly to some Roman 
holiday? She commenced pacing back and forth be- 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 51 

fore the startled Swett. Could he not see, she de- 
manded, that he and Robert were mere instruments 
being manipulated by enemies of the very name of 
Lincoln? No. Absolutely not. She would not submit 
to this indignity and humiliation. She wanted coun- 
sel. She wanted time. She would fight this and she 
would win. 

Swett listened silently, his eyes on the floor. When 
she had finished, he raised determined eyes to her 
troubled countenance. 

"No thing in your case remains, madame, but to go 
with me. You have no alternative. If you insist, then 
I shall turn you over to the officers and let them take 
you. There are two carriages waiting downstairs. 
One of them is mine. The other belongs to the offi- 
cers. If you choose not to come quietly, I must either 
seize you forcibly or turn you over to those officers. 
Rest assured that they will handcuff you if that be- 
comes necessary. Certainly, they will take you to 

Swett paused and his face grew thoughtful. His 
voice was softer, almost syrupy, when he spoke. 
"How much better for you to put on your bonnet and 
go along with me as you ordinarily would." 

"Are there others besides Mr. Turner and the offi- 
cers?" Mary wanted to know. "Is there a gallery of 
our enemies drawn up outside to cheer as the widow 


52 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

of Abraham Lincoln is taken forth in chains to the 

She had let the bitterness welling up within her 
into her soft voice. It was edged with irony now. 

"Only Ben Ayer," Swett said. "He waits outside 
with the officers." 

"Ah, Mr. Ayer. Another prominent Chicago law- 
yer. Does it require such a magnificent array of legal 
brain power, Mr. Swett, to crucify one little old lady 
such as Mary Lincoln?" 

She watched the blush rise in his face and saw the 
shade of sadness cross it. He turned his eyes away. 
His voice seemed muffled. "Mr. Ayer is your son 
Robert's counsel, Mrs. Lincoln." 

"Ah yes, my son Robert. I should say, Mr. Swett, 
that he needs counsel from above, and not from a 
mere man whose purposes do seem to fit a pattern of 
connivances which has not been strange to me since 
that Good Friday in 1865 when Abraham was shot 
down. Why have you turned?" 

"I am sorry, Mrs. Lincoln, that you are insane, 
but I must do my duty." 

"And you are attending to insane people, are you, 
Mr. Swett? Allow me to suggest that you go home 
and take care of your wife, then. I have heard some 
stories on that subject about her." 

Mary turned slowly to study the picture of Abra- 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 53 

ham on the table. The eyes, she thought, were very 
sad. His eyes were always sad. 

"And you, my husband's friend, would take me and 
lock me up in an asylum, would you?" 

She felt the scalding tears come then. She had 
hoped to avoid this, but it was too much. Too futile. 
She raised her hands imploringly, and turned her face 
upward, so that the tears coursed under her smooth 
chin now and bathed her throat. 

"O God, please return to me my Abraham that I 
may be delivered from mine enemies. Send him, Good 
Lord, that he may release me, and drive them away ! " 

"Please, Mrs. Lincoln, I implore you . . ." 

She turned on him abruptly, her eyes flashing. 

"Why are you doing this to me, Mr. Swett? What 
manner of evil is this in you? Why do you, of all 
people, believe a poor widow to be insane? Why? 

Swett sighed and shifted his weight impatiently. 
"Well, Mrs. Lincoln, did you not telegraph Dr. Isham 
several months ago that Robert was sick when, in 
fact, your son's health was never better? Was that 
not what you advised him from Jacksonville, Florida? 
And did you not, that same day, send a telegram to 
Robert, too, and say to him in it that he should rouse 
himself and live for his mother? Didn't you? And 
did not you tell him that you pray every night that 
he might be spared?" 

54 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"Ah, Mr. Swett, and that I do. I do pray every 
night that my only remaining son be spared. Cannot 
you understand this great anxiety within me? Yes, 
even Robert, I fancy, is taken from me now. He is 
my only son left to me. The others, you see, are dead. 
They are gone." 

"Really, now, Mrs. Lincoln." Swett's voice was 
filled with impatience. "What does that have to do 
with the present circumstances?" 

"Have you ever had even one son die in your arms, 
Mr. Swett?" 

"No, but . . ." 

"I have, sir," Mary said softly. "Eddie was only 
four then. It was the first of February, a cold and 
bitter day in 1850. I can remember it so clearly. He 
was taken ill, you know, in December. They said it 
was diphtheria. I think only God really knows what 
it was that came to take him from me. He grew 
weaker and weaker, and then he died. Of such is the 
kingdom of Heaven, Mr. Swett. We had that put on 
his marker, you know. He was so young. So very 
young to die." 

"I am sorry, Mrs. Lincoln. But this is 1875, 
madame. That was so long ago. Twenty-five years 
ago, madame." 

"It is as yesterday to a mother," Mary said tiredly. 
The fight was oozing from her now, leaving her limp 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 55 

and exhausted. "Time cannot heal such bruises on a 
mother's heart, you see. It is a special kind of hell, 
sir, to watch a child die, a child whose trusting eyes 
do say to you that he is certain you will not let any- 
thing happen to him, you see. A special kind of hell, 
Mr. Swett. It is the reproach that comes into those 
eyes with death's calling. No. It is as yesterday, you 
see. It was yesterday." 

Mary paused, going to the window to look out. 
She was aware of Swett's startled face as he moved 
quickly toward her. She turned about. He stopped, 
anxiety across his florid, bearded countenance. 

"But I have lost three sons, Mr. Swett. Not one, 
you understand. Three. Willie was next. He was 
just twelve, and we were in the White House then. 
It, too, came in February. It was the twentieth and 
we were at war in that year. 1862. That horrible 
war . . ." 

"Thirteen years, Mrs. Lincoln." 

"Yesterday," she insisted. "It was only yesterday, 
Mr. Swett. Bilious fever, they called it. He lived only 
eleven days after being stricken. I remember. Fort 
Donelson had fallen then to General Grant. Fort 
Henry, too. It fell first, I think. And then Donelson. 
Yes. And then Willie. All I have left of him is a 
withered bouquet. It was in his hand, and I had them 
fetch it to me. ..." 

56 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"You must not trouble yourself so, madame. We 
must go. They wait for us at the courtroom." 

She ignored him, staring into the kind of distance 
which reaches back across the years of pain and 

"Why cannot Robert understand this anxiety for 
him which possesses me? Lives there a mother gifted 
with a mother's great love who does not fret within 
her mind constantly about her children — how they 
are, how they progress? What is their health? you 
think. Are they all right? And then to lose three of 
them! Is this to render immunity, then, to anxiety 
for the fourth and last one? Is it? There is no vac- 
cination against mother love, Mr. Swett. It is — " she 
fingered the worn gold wedding ring — "it is eternal, 
you see, as the love from which it came." 

"Your strange horror of fire, madame. Is this not a 
symptom of lunacy? Why do you say to people that 
this city will surely burn again?" 

"Ah, Mr. Swett. Have I satisfied you, then, con- 
cerning my fears for Robert, who now turns on his 
mother? Is it, then, that only two deaths will buy off 
such insanity as this? Tad was the sweetest one, you 
see. I think it was because he was most often hurt. 
Speech was difficult for him. His cleft palate was his 
cross in life, and he bore it well, sir. Children jeered 
at him and mocked him here in Chicago. They 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 57 

shouted Tongue-tied Tad' at him and laughed to see 
the pain this brought on his proud little face. God 
forgive me if, perhaps, I loved him more. He would 
have taken it, but I could not. We moved many times 
until, I thought, this land which boasts of freedom, 
and this widow of a man who gave that proud boast 
shining glory, must seek freedom from mockery on 
foreign shores. Is it not ironic, Mr. Swett? The son 
of a man they called the Great Emancipator must go 
abroad to find freedom from intolerance." 

"If you will excuse me, Mrs. Lincoln? That is not 
the question here. You see ..." 

"His condition did improve in Europe, Mr. Swett," 
she cut him off. "I saw it first in Germany, at Frank- 
fort on the Main. And in England he had a wonder- 
ful tutor. But I became ill. Conditions abroad, you 
see, are not so advanced as here, in our country. I 
became ill and wanted again to come home. We came 
through heavy seas and it was very cold, and Tad 
took a cold one day while strolling on the deck. He 
died right here in the Clifton House. It was so very 
hot. It was in July, you know. So very hot, and yet 
Tad was so cold. He just suffocated, my tender, lov- 
ing Tad. Just could not breathe. His face turned 
blue. He was dead." 

"But the fire. You have a lunacy about fire. . . ." 

"No lunacy," she retorted. "The fire came in 

58 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

October of that year. It was an omen, perhaps. The 
fire which burned Chicago down came after my son 
Tad died here." 

"We must get to the courtroom, Mrs. Lincoln. The 
trial . . ." 

"Yes. The trial. My trial has been so long, Mr. 
Swett. It began on Good Friday in 1865. I remember 
how packed the theater was, and how the Union sol- 
diers stood about it with their long muskets as if 
these would keep out the malevolence which seethed 
about my Abraham. The blood is here. See it here?" 
She fingered her right sleeve. "Blood of my husband. 
There was not even a final word. I knew, even as 
they carried him away. Perhaps if Robert had been 
there . . . But he was not. He would not come with 
us. Abraham wanted him to do so, but he would not. 
He was not there beside me then, and he is not here 
beside me now." 

"We were deeply sorry, Mrs. Lincoln. All of us 
were sorry. But that is not the question before us 
now. I must insist, madame, that we leave for the 

"He died in the line of duty," she said. "He died 
as those soldiers who went before him. He was a sol- 
dier, too. He was the commander in chief. And so I 
asked for a pension and they put a bill in Congress 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 59 

for it. And this is when the hate was transferred to 
me. I am sure you remember what happened in our 
Congress, Mr. Swett. I am the only woman whose 
name was ever dragged through such mud and mire 
in those dignified houses which some have called the 
temples of our democracy. Temples indeed ! Vilifica- 
tion! Slander! And in the United States Senate! 
Oh, I have saved this calumny, Mr. Swett, for I want 
to remember it. I have the Congressional Globes in 
which those speeches appeared." 

Mary moved to the closet and picked up the thumb- 
worn copies, studying them. 

"Hear this villainy, Mr. Swett. Hear this calumny 
and tell this grieving widow who now has lost four 
sons if her eccentricities are not well rooted in in- 
famous slanders in our noble Senate. Senator Yates 
is speaking here, you see. He said: 'There are recol- 
lections and memories, sad, silent and deep that I will 
not recall publicly, which induce me to vote against 
the bill. A woman should be true to her husband. I 
will not go into details. I believe that, could Mr. Lin- 
coln speak from the abode of Heaven, he would say 
as I do. This is not a case where we should extend 
charity. I happen to know that she and her family all 
through the war were sympathizers with the rebel- 
lion.' This is what our noble Senator Yates told the 

60 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

world about Mary Lincoln, sir. That she was untrue 
to her eternal love. And that she was a traitorous 
first lady in the White House!" 

"Come now, Mrs. Lincoln. Some men are cruel 
with words, but you must not carry on so." 

"And with deeds as well as words, sir. You come 
to me and say come with me, Mary Todd Lincoln, 
and I will take you to a courtroom and then will put 
you away in a dungeon. You say I am insane because 
an anger burns at me for those injustices fostered by 
mine enemies who now sit aside and jeer at what you 
do. Do you know, sir, that Senator Tipton pointed 
out that even a dog which had belonged to Abraham 
would be kept immune to this day from indignity? 
Why not, then, his poor widow? Am I less than a 
dog to be treated thus?" 

"I must insist, Mrs. Lincoln. I really must." 

"Yes, you must, Mr. Swett. I daresay this is for 
reasons best known to yourself. Yes, I suppose that 
one may conclude that I am mentally depressed. But 
insane, Mr. Swett? No. Never!" 

"Well, mentally depressed then, Mrs. Lincoln. We 
must go. We must be going." 

"Yes, mentally depressed. Who would not be? 
Poor Abraham's body was hardly in the grave before 
that devil's advocate Herndon, his own law partner, 
mind you, produced the most vicious lies of them all." 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 61 

"We must overlook Herndon, Mrs. Lincoln. A man 
addicted as he is to alcohol cannot be mentally 

"Yes, overlook such insanity as sears a widow's 
very soul with its malice, but put that widow into 
chains for her reactions to it. This is wild and fearful 
reasoning, Mr. Swett." 

Mary returned to the closet and put the thumb- 
worn Globes away. 

"I even helped this Herndon," Mary said. "I 
thought to be kind to him and so I met him in the 
Nicholas Hotel at Springfield and he pretended to me 
to be my husband's friend. I turned to him for ad- 
vice, and I told him, therefore, many family secrets, 
trusting him with them. I thought his book would be 
a monument to the memory and the goodness of my 
dear Abraham, and for this faith he repaid me with 
malicious treachery. Lies! All lies!" 

"Not all, Mrs. Lincoln. It was not such a bad 
book as that." 

Mary was fingering her wedding ring again. "He 
said Abraham loved Nancy Rutledge better than his 
own life. This was a vicious fiction. He said that 
Abraham loved another and had told me so. Do you 
realize, Mr. Swett, how feminine dignity reels before 
such mendacious ferocity? He raised a question as to 
the death of our children and its devilish imputation 

62 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

was aimed at me. He said that Abraham once fled 
and left me spurned at the altar. He even raised a 
question as to the legitimacy of Abraham's birth and 
described him as 'rising from a stagnant, putrid pool.' 
He called my husband infidel and atheist, my husband 
whom I have seen on his knees imploring God to give 
him wisdom for his people." 

"Your husband is not on trial here, Mrs. Lincoln. 
Please control yourself. Come with me as you nor- 
mally would." 

"Ah, but Abraham is on trial, Mr. Swett. You and 
others have put him there, you see, for I am in his 
shadow constantly." 

"I cannot agree with that contention, madame." 

"For two thousand pieces of silver," Mary said 
thoughtfully, "this Lamon bought Herndon's material 
and under his name he published all of this calumny. 
His name, you see, but with a pen dipped in villainy 
by Chauncey Black, the son of a judge who was a 
well-known enemy of Abraham." 

"But friends bought up copies, Mrs. Lincoln, and 
destroyed them." 

"Yes. I know that. But there are others still about. 
Words such as these once written cannot be recalled, 
Mr. Swett. These words have woven false threads 
into the fabric of history. If only one reader believes 
them, is not Abraham's memory damaged for it?" 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 63 

"Newspapers called you mad, Mrs. Lincoln, when 
you wanted to auction off your clothing." Swett was 
pacing impatiently now. 

"Yes. Those were furious articles, Mr. Swett." 

"You caused much embarrassment to Robert with 
those eccentricities." 

"Eccentricities indeed! If this was madness, it was 
merchant madness! Merchants suggested the auc- 
tion so that I might pay off debts. And why not? 
People wanted these garments because they loved me, 
you see. But Robert left me. He scolded me and 
left me. He was furious at the articles in the news- 
papers; like a maniac and almost threatened his life. 
And only dear Tad, who yet lived then, prevented me 
from taking mine." 

Mary sat again, looking at her dress, and she could 
feel the weight of the folded bonds sewn into the spe- 
cial pocket of her first petticoat. "I have fifty-six 
thousand dollars' worth of bonds," she said tiredly. 
"That is what you all are after, I suppose. I know 
what you want with them." 

Swett stopped his pacing and gave her an impatient 
stare. "I insist." 

"Very well." She said it as a deep sigh. Her eyes 
studied her muddied skirt. "See my dress, Mr. Swett? 
It is all muddy from shopping. I must change my 
dress and certainly you would not humiliate me and 

64 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

compel me to undress myself in your presence ?" 

Swett blushed. "I regret that you should throw the 
necessity on me, madame. There is no need for a 
change in your dress. However, whatever comes, it 
might as well be understood here and now that I am 
not going to leave you and you must go with me." 

"And why won't you leave me alone a moment?" 
Mary wanted to know. 

"Because if I do, Mrs. Lincoln, I am afraid you will 
jump out of the window." 

"It is you, Mr. Swett, who should jump out of the 
window." Mary rose slowly, studying the large closet 
in which she had placed the Congressional Globes. 
She moved to it, deciding it would have to do, and 
entered, closing the door behind her. In the darkness 
she found the dress she sought and managed to make 
the change. Then she re-entered the room. 

Swett was waiting. A mixture of impatience and 
anxiety was stamped on his face. 

"Will you take my arm, Mrs. Lincoln?" he said. 
She was putting on her bonnet. 

"No, thank you." Mary felt the switches of anger 
again. "I can walk yet." 

They had to wait for the elevator. Mary wondered 
if Swett would speak further about it out here, in the 
open, with people about. She decided to change the 
subject and was still discussing the panic when they 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 65 

reached the steep grade leading to the street. Swett 
offered to help her into the carriage, but she shrugged 
him off. 

"No," she said abruptly. "I ride with you from 
compulsion, Mr. Swett, but I beg you not to touch 

They were silent during the ride to the courtroom. 
Swett spoke only to answer her question as to where 
it was. He said it was at North Dearborn Street and 
West Hubbard. Mary turned, once, to look back. 
The carriage with two policemen, Sam Turner and 
Ben Ayer in it followed them at a distance. 

They moved quietly through the courthouse to the 
courtroom. Swett opened the heavy door abruptly 
and the murmur of voices reached Mary. There were 
strange men standing about, and she drew back fear- 
fully. Perhaps one of them wanted to kill her, as that 
crazed one had shot poor Abraham. 

"Come right along, Mrs. Lincoln," Swett's syrupy 
voice urged her. "Robert is in here and I will sit 
by you." 

Fear weakened Mary Lincoln's knees. She felt the 
perspiration start in her palms. His words did not 
reassure her, but there was no turning back now. She 
entered slowly and seated herself in the chair desig- 
nated by Swett. 

She watched as Swett walked across the murmur- 

66 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

filled courtroom toward a man. The man turned, and 
she saw with a start that it was Robert. Her only living 
son looked across the courtroom at her and then moved 
toward her. 

"Mother," he said, and she thought his voice quiv- 
ered just a bit. 

"Sit down, my son," she said kindly. "Sit by me 
in my hour of need." 

Chapter 4 

Mary Todd Lincoln sat quietly beside her son in 
the courtroom commencing to fill with murmuring 
people and hoped desperately that this was all some 
terrible dream. She had known such dreams since 
Abraham had gone, but never one quite so strange as 
this one. Her small hand went to the mourning brooch 
with the sad-faced image on it. 

Swett moved over to her, and his voice brushed 
through her whirling thoughts. 

"You are entitled to counsel, Mrs. Lincoln," he 
was saying. "Your old friend, Mr. Arnold, is here. 
He was your husband's friend, and I imagine that you 
would rather have him and Robert sit beside you than 
any stranger?" 

Mary Lincoln thought that over. Robert was a 
stranger now. And Isaac N. Arnold? Was he truly 
yet a friend? Leonard Swett had been Abraham's 


68 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

friend, too, and now he had turned against her for 
some strange reason beyond her. Leonard Swett, the 
man who had placed Abraham's name in nomination 
right here in Chicago. And now he was soiling that 
name through her. Was Arnold with them? Should 
she trust the diminutive lawyer? She decided she 
would and saw relief in Swett's eyes when she said so. 

Mary let her eyes roam about the courtroom. It 
was filling slowly with curious faces. She reflected 
grimly that the word must be spreading rapidly 
throughout the building. The jury box was already 
filled, she noticed, and as she studied the faces turned 
toward her, she started in surprise. Most of them she 
knew, some of them quite well. 

She prodded her memory and told herself the 
names: Lyman Gage, the bank president; J. Mc- 
Gregor Adams of Crerar and Adams Company, the 
railway supply firm; Mr. Parkhurst and James A. 
Mason, the prominent foundryman; Charles B. 
Farwell of the wholesale drygoods firm; Charles Hen- 
derson and Mr. Cameron; Thomas Cogswell, the 
jeweler; William Stewart of Stewart and Aldrich 
Company; Silas Moore, real estate and loans; Henry 
Durand of the groceries firm, and a final man whose 
face Mary could not place. They were Robert's 
friends, she told herself, not hers. 

The soft voice of Isaac N. Arnold penetrated her 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 69 

thoughts. She managed a faint smile and extended 
her hand. He took it gently, bowing slightly, and 
kissed it. 

"Good day to you, Mrs. Lincoln. It is such a pleas- 
ure to see you again, but I am sorry that we must 
meet in such circumstances." 

Mary was thinking that Isaac Arnold had not 
changed. He was the same diminutive, bearded, po- 
lite little man with the old school manner. She studied 
his eyes and decided he was, indeed, friendly. 

"This is the day," she replied soberly, "that my 
enemies have been waiting for." 

"I suspect, Mrs. Lincoln, that perhaps this is the 
day your enemies have been planning for." Arnold's 
gentle face was grim; his sharp, even features stiff. 

The abrupt pounding of the gavel by the bailiff in- 
terrupted them. Mary looked about as persons in the 
courtroom rose to their feet. She rose, too, listening 
to the bailiff intone: "State of Illinois, County of 
Cook, in the County Court of Cook County. This 
court will now be in order." 

Shock and apprehension raced through her as she 
saw the large man in a jurist's robe who entered the 
courtroom by the door behind the bailiff and mounted 
the bench. Martin R. M. Wallace! It couldn't be! 
Was this Democrat who had hated her husband to be 
her judge? 

70 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

Judge Wallace seated himself ponderously and 
murmurs swept the courtroom as people sat down. 
Judge Wallace leaned forward toward the bailiff, and 
Mary could see his lips moving. The bailiff turned, 
lifting a paper. 

"The case of Robert Todd Lincoln versus Mary 
Todd Lincoln," he droned. A faint sigh seemed to 
run through the audience. "Application to try the 
question of insanity of Mary Todd Lincoln.' ' 

This time the sigh rose in volume, and Judge Wal- 
lace used the gavel vigorously. 

"This court will be in order. Expressions from the 
audience will be dealt with severely." The judge's 
eyes were on Mary Lincoln now. "The court wishes 
to observe that the jury has already been impaneled 
and sworn and that the court is, and has been, ready 
for this proceeding to begin. Are all of the parties now 
present and prepared to proceed?" 

Arnold flashed a glance at Ayer, who was saying the 
plaintiff was ready, your honor. He squeezed Mary's 
small hand and rose slowly; drawing back his coat, 
thrusting his thumbs into the sleeve openings of his 
vest, he moved slowly toward the bench. 

"If the court please, may counsel for the defense 
offer the observation that the defendant Mary Lincoln 
was arrested at one o'clock this day and that it is now 
but two fifty-five. It is obvious per se that no person 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 71 

could possibly come here in such short order to face 
such grave charges and be expected to be ready to de- 
fend herself against them. For this obvious reason, I 
move that this trial be recessed until June 19 next in 
order that my client be given a just and proper period 
of time in which to prepare her defense." 

"The motion is overruled," Judge Wallace droned 
sonorously. "The hearing will proceed." 

"If the court please, your honor." Mary heard the 
surprise in Arnold's smooth voice. "I move that this 
hearing be recessed, then, until at least tomorrow at 
this time in order that we may be given twenty-four 
hours to prepare for this proceeding." 

"The motion is overruled," Judge Wallace intoned. 
"The hearing will proceed." 

Mary watched the flush rise in Arnold's neck and 
ears. "Your Honor," he was saying, "I am begging 
this court in the presence of Almighty God for mercy. 
With that in mind, I move that the court grant a one- 
hour recess in order that counsel for the defense may 
familiarize himself with the serious charges brought 

"Mr. Arnold," Judge Wallace said, "there is not 
going to be a recess. Not even for five minutes. This 
court has waited long enough. This bench has ap- 
pointed you, Mr. Arnold, to defend this defendant. 
Since you have long been a friend of the family, this 

72 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

court must take notice that you should be familiar 
with the actions of this defendant and with the 
charges brought here as a result of those actions." 

"I am familiar, your honor," Arnold said, "with 
the fact that this honorable woman and erstwhile first 
lady is being pilfered of statutory rights. If the court 
please, we are dealing with a most delicate subject in 
a most indelicate manner. I move for a fifteen-minute 

"Motion denied. Proceed with the hearing." 

"A question, if the court pleases." Arnold's smooth 
voice was edged with the anger of frustration now. 

"Proceed, Mr. Arnold." 

"How is it that this jury was impaneled without 
counsel for the defense being given opportunity to 
challenge a single member? How is it that this jury 
is sworn? May I observe, again, that this poor little 
lady was arrested less than two hours ago in her room 
and brought here under threat of force? What sort 
of jury is this? Is this jury impaneled to weigh and 
decide, or has it been impaneled to convict?" 

Mary listened to the murmur of excitement ripple 
through the growing audience. The gavel demanded 
silence. "Mr. Arnold, the court admonishes you to 
watch your tongue." Mary thought the judge sounded 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 73 

"May I have a copy of the charges preferred 
against my client?" 

"If there is no objection?" Judge Wallace stared 
at Ayer. Mary watched her son's lawyer shake his 
head. "Your request is granted." 

Arnold wanted to know if the defense was to enjoy 
the privilege of producing friendly witnesses and 
might cross-examine hostile witnesses. Judge Wallace 
said these privileges would be granted. 

"And if the court please, I ask again, your honor, 
if it is not most unusual for a jury to be impaneled 
without giving the defense the right to question pros- 
pective jurors, or the statutory privilege of exercising 

Ayer rose quickly. "Your honor, we find nothing 
wrong with interrogation of jurymen by Mr. Arnold 
in so far as their qualifications are concerned." 

Arnold managed an exaggerated bow toward Ayer 
and moved toward the jury box. Mary watched the 
jurymen shuffle nervously. 

Arnold had halted before Juror Cogswell. "Will 
you state your full name and business for the court, 
Mr. Cogswell?" 

"Thomas Cogswell, associated with the firm of 
Cogswell-Weber Company, jewelers." 

"Yes. And do you know Mary Todd Lincoln?" 

74 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"Only through the trade." 

"Through the trade? And what do you know of her 
through the trade, Mr. Cogswell?" 

"She is a little slow in paying her bills, sir." 

"Ah, yes. And I suppose that during this present 
panic, Mr. Cogswell, all your other customers are 
most prompt in paying their obligations?" 

"No, sir. We have many persons on our books." 

"Thank you, Mr. Cogswell. Now, Dr. Blake . . ." 
Arnold had halted before the man whose face was 
strange to Mary. "You are the city physician of Chi- 
cago. Is that correct?" 


"And you frequently treat people who are in men- 
tal distress?" 

"Oh, no, sir." 

"Infrequently, then?" 

"Hardly ever, sir." 

"Hardly ever? That means you treat such persons 
intermittently, I assume?" 

"Well, as a matter of fact, only once . . ." 

"Ah, yes. Only once. Now, Doctor, in view of 
such broad experience, do you profess to be qualified 
to judge if a person is sane or not?" 

"No, sir. I am a trained medical administrator." 

Mary turned curious eyes to the audience. She 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 75 

saw some men writing and realized that these must 
be newspapermen. Arnold's voice droned on as he 
moved through the jury. 

Mary closed her eyes. Weariness assailed her. I 
wonder, she thought, how long it will take? How 
long will it take them to do this to me? 

She turned sober eyes back to Arnold as he com- 
pleted his questioning. He had moved back before 
the bench. 

"If the court pleases, the defense finds this entire 
jury objectionable and requests that new jurors be 
called and that defendant's counsel be permitted to 
examine each one." 

"Mr. Arnold," Judge Wallace grated, "your repu- 
tation is known to this court, but we are not going 
to deal here today with inferences or innuendoes. 
This jury has been fairly impaneled and is ready to 
hear this case, and it will hear this case." 

"In the name of common decency, your honor, I 
ask that the court take notice of the violations of this 
defendant's statutory rights which have taken place 
here. I suggest, sir, that it begs of remedy." 

"The court cannot see," Judge Wallace said, 
"where the statutory rights of this defendant have 
been denied. We will now hear from Mr. Ayer, coun- 
sel for the petitioner." 

76 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

Mary watched Arnold's shoulders droop visibly. 
He turned, strode to her and dropped into his chair. 
His eyes were flashings 

Ben Ayer had risen slowly to his feet. Now he 
turned toward the jury and raised his voice. 

"If the court please, we have here today the case 
of an anguished and embarrassed son who has been 
forced to represent that his mother, Mary Todd Lin- 
coln, is insane and that for her benefit and the safety 
of the community she should be confined in an asy- 
lum. This woman has in her possession a large sum 
of money, and it is known beyond all doubt that she 
had been profligate with money in the past. This 
woman is absolutely non compos mentis — incapable 
of managing her substantial estate. The truth of 
these allegations will be proved beyond all doubt. It 
will be shown that Mary Todd Lincoln's mind has 
failed beneath the weight of the blows which have 
fallen on her, and then she must be declared insane 
and a conservator appointed to manage her estate. 
Testimony will disclose that the defendant is emo- 
tionally unstable and as a result suffers from hallu- 
cinations which induce abnormal conduct." 

Ayer finished and returned to his chair. 

Arnold rose slowly. "The defense offers no state- 
ment at this time, your honor, but requests that this 
jury again be sworn, in the presence of the accused, 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 77 

and that each juror weigh carefully the wording of the 
oath which is given to them." 

Color rose in Judge Wallace's face. "The jury has 
been once sworn and this is sufficient. Mr. Ayer will 
proceed without further delay." 

Ayer rose. "The petitioner now calls Dr. Willis 

Mary watched the bailiff open a door and then re- 
turn with a tall, bearded man following him. Mary 
recognized the physician. He seemed to avoid her 
eyes as he was being sworn, and then he sat down in 
the witness chair. 

Ayer moved quickly to a position beside the first 
witness so that he faced the jury. 

"State your name please." 

"Willis Danforth." 

"And your occupation, sir?" 

"I am a doctor, a professor of surgery and a gyne- 
cologist at Chicago Homeopathic College." 

"You are acquainted with Mrs. Lincoln, Doctor?" 

"Yes. Professionally. I treated her for several 
weeks in November of 1873 for fever and nervous 
derangement of the head." 

"Objection!" Arnold had leaped to his feet. "I 
object to the use of the word derangement." 

"Objection overruled. Proceed, Mr. Ayer." Judge 
Wallace looked bored. 

78 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"Did you observe anything of particular interest 
at that time, Doctor?" 

Doctor Danforth said indeed he did. He had ob- 
served at the time indications of mental disturbance. 
"She had strange imaginings." 

"Such as what, Doctor?" 

"Well, she thought that someone was at work at 
her head and that an Indian was removing bones 
from her face." Murmuring swept through the court- 
room and Danforth halted. Judge Wallace pounded 
for silence. 

Danforth continued: "And pulling wires from her 
eyes. I visited her again in September 1874, and 
found a debility of her nervous system. She com- 
plained to me that someone was taking steel springs 
from her head and would not let her rest and that she 
was going to die soon. Within a few days, she said. 
She said her husband had told her that. She also 
imagined that she heard raps upon a table and that 
these conveyed to her the time of her death. She sat 
at the table and asked questions and repeated answers 
which she claimed the table was giving her." 

"Would you say, Doctor, that this derangement 
was the result of any condition of her body?" 

"No, sir, I would not. She was not diseased." 

"And have you seen her, Doctor, since last year?" 

"Yes. I called on her at the Grand Pacific a week 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 79 

ago and she appeared to be in excellent health. She 
spoke of her stay in Jacksonville, Florida, and of the 
pleasant time she had there. Her former hallucina- 
tions seemed to have passed. She said, however, that 
she was not well and that an attempt was made to 
poison her as she came north at a wayside station near 
Jacksonville. She said she discovered poison in her 

"Did you see any traces of poison about her, sir?" 

"I did not." 

"And what was your opinion then, sir?" 

"That Mary Lincoln was and is insane." 

Mary listened to a sigh of gasps about the court- 
room. She stared at Danforth, but he avoided her 

"Cross-examine," Judge Wallace said. 

Arnold took the place where Ayer had stood. "I 
will ask you, Doctor, if it is not true that when a 
woman reaches a certain age chemical changes occur 
within her body which are accompanied by melan- 

"That is true." 

"And is Mrs. Lincoln at, or beyond that age?" 

"I would say so. Yes." 

"Now, Doctor, you have testified that in 1873 you 
treated Mrs. Lincoln for a 'nervous derangement of 
the head?" 

80 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 


"Not of the mind, or of the brain? But of the 

"That is what I said." 

"Such as a stiff neck, Doctor?" 

"I object!" Ayer leaped to his feet. 

"Objection sustained. What the witness said speaks 
for itself." 

Arnold managed a significant glance at the jury. 
"Now, Doctor, is it not true that Mrs. Lincoln told 
you that she felt as if someone were pulling bones 
from her face, such as an Indian scalping her, and 
that she felt ill, and that she felt as if someone might 
have poisoned her?" 

"I do not remember her exact words." 

"I see. Then you are not certain beyond doubt just 
what it was that she said. Is that right?" 

"Objection. The witness is having words put in 
his mouth." 

"Objection sustained." 

Arnold threw another grim look at the jury. "I will 
ask you, Doctor, whether you have ever reported any 
of these findings to the plaintiff, Robert Todd Lin- 


"Objection sustained. Mr. Lincoln is not on trial 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 81 

"Mr. Robert Lincoln is not, if the court please/' 
Arnold shot back. "Mr. Abraham Lincoln seems to 
be." He paused. "That will be all, Doctor. Thank 

"The plaintiff calls Samuel M. Turner." 

Arnold sat down slowly as if he was tired. Mary 
felt his hand squeeze hers reassuringly. She managed 
a grim smile. 

Ayer waited until Turner had been sworn. 

"State your name and occupation, please." 

"Samuel M. Turner, manager of the Grand Pacific 

"You are acquainted with the defendant, Mary 
Todd Lincoln?" 

"Yes, since last March fifteenth, when she came to 
my hotel." 

"And have you noticed anything unusual about her 
actions since that time?" 

"Yes, sir. She visited me at the office on the first 
of April. She had a shawl wrapped about her head 
and she said for me to come into the reception room 
with her as she had something to say to me. She said 
something was wrong about the house — that she 
could hear strange noises in the rooms. I went with 
her and heard nothing, and when I was about to leave 
she turned to me, scared-like, and said not to leave 
her; she was afraid to be left alone." 

82 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"And what did you do then, Mr. Turner?" 

"Why, I left her in charge of a female employee 
and returned to my. office." 

"And was that the end of it?" 

"Oh, no, sir. I had hardly reached my office when 
a messenger came and told me that Mrs. Lincoln was 
at the elevator and wished to see me. She told me 
this time that there was a strange man in the corridor 
and that he was going to molest her. I went up to her 
rooms with her and walked through them, but I found 
no strange men. Mrs. Lincoln was much excited, 
though, and said that she would like to go to some 
lady boarder's room so that she might be safe. I es- 
corted her to Mrs. Dodge's room, but Mrs. Dodge 
was at dinner. I left her and told her I would return 

"Yes. And was that the end of it?" 

"No, sir. She called me again and I went to her 
and found her quite exercised and wild in appearance. 
She repeated to me her fears." 

"And what did you then conclude, Mr. Turner?" 

"Objection! This calls for a conclusion by the wit- 
ness." Arnold's voice cracked like a whip. 

"Overruled. This witness is permitted to draw a 
conclusion from such activities." 

"I figured she was deranged, sir." 

"Your witness, Mr. Arnold." 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 83 

Arnold moved again to the place vacated by Ayer. 

"Now, Mr. Turner, you say that when you explored 
the living area of Mrs. Lincoln you found no strange 
man. Is that right?" 

"That is correct." 

"Did you see anyone at all, as a matter of fact?" 

"Yes, sir, I believe so. That is, I must have seen 
some persons." 

"And are Pinkerton men strangers to you, Mr. 

"I don't know what you mean, sir." 

"I mean are Pinkerton men — the ones who have 
been watching Mrs. Lincoln and following her — are 
they strangers to you." 

"No, sir." 

"But they might be strange to Mrs. Lincoln. Is that 

"Objection! " Ayer leaped to his feet. "Mr. Turner 
cannot testify concerning how something may appear 
to Mrs. Lincoln." 

"Objection sustained," Judge Wallace droned. 

"Very well." Arnold tugged at one ear. "You do 
know, Mr. Turner, that Pinkerton men were watching 
Mrs. Lincoln?" 

"Yes, sir. I knew that." 

"And they were given the run of your establish- 

84 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"I beg your pardon?" 

"I said, they were free to roam your hotel at will." 

"I suppose so." 

"And they watched Mrs. Lincoln's every move?" 

"That is what they were hired to do." 

"And in view of the constant peeping by these men 
at Mrs. Lincoln, do you still regard it as a symptom 
of derangement in her that she was frightened?" 

"Well, I can understand it better, since you put it 
that way." 

"Thank you, Mr. Turner. That is all." 

Mrs. Allen was the next witness. Mary watched 
with sober eyes as she took the stand. Mrs. Allen was 
very abrupt with her. Mary did not like Mrs. Allen. 
Ayer dispensed quickly with the introduction of the 
witness; her name and the fact that she was the 
housekeeper at the hotel. 

"Do you consider Mrs. Lincoln to be normal, Mrs. 
Allen?" Ayer's voice was softly encouraging. 

"No, sir, I sure don't." 

"And why not, Mrs. Allen?" 

"The lady is so awful nervous, and she's feared of 
a small window in her room. Says it means bad for 
her. Last Wednesday, the madame mixed several 
kinds of medicine and swallowed it and she has a 
large closet filled with packages. She sure ought to be 
put away, sir, and cared for right like." 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 85 

"Your witness, Mr. Arnold." 

Smiling faintly, Ayer returned to his seat beside 
Robert Lincoln. 

"Now, Mrs. Allen," Arnold began softly, "you say 
that Mrs. Lincoln mixed several kinds of medicine 
together and then swallowed the mixture?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"And do you know, Mrs. Allen, what Mrs. Lin- 
coln's instructions were regarding that medicine?" 

"No, sir." 

"You do not know whether or not the mixing of 
this medicine was, in fact, prescribed by the attend- 
ing physician?" 

"No, sir." 

"Then, in fact, Mrs. Allen, Mrs. Lincoln may 
simply have been following a doctor's orders." 

"Yes, sir. I guess so." 

"You guess so, you say? You guessed then, too, 
didn't you, Mrs. Allen? Do you say, now, that this 
mixing of medicine indicated insanity?" 

"I guess not, sir." 

"Now, Mrs. Allen, you testified, I believe, that 
Mrs. Lincoln has a large closet filled with packages?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"Where do you keep packages, Mrs. Allen?" 

"Why, I . . ." 

"As a matter of fact, any neat housekeeper, and I 

86 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

am sure you are quite neat, would keep packages in 
a closet rather than leave them lying about a room. 
Isn't that right?" 

"Yes, sir. I guess it is." 

"You are quite a guesser, Mrs. Allen. That is all." 

Maggie Gavin, the next witness, moved slowly to 
the stand, her plain, dull face showing fear. Mary 
Lincoln felt sorry for her. She meant well, Mary 
thought, but was so fearful of losing her job at the 
hotel that she bowed to everyone's slightest whim. 

Ayer was stern and firm with her. "Now, Miss 
Gavin, have you ever seen Mrs. Lincoln act 

"Yes, sir." 

"Will you tell the court about it?" 

"Well, sir, she said once she heard people speaking 
to her through the wall, she did. She was very wor- 
ried about her son, and once she told me to listen to 
voices she heard through the floor. She said a man 
had taken her pocketbook, but I found it in a bureau 
drawer. Then she called me to the window and 
pointed to smoke coming from a chimney on the 
building next door and said the city was burning. 
She's bought lots of packages and several new trunks 

"Yes. Is there anything else?" 

"Well, sir, once she said she was afraid to stay in 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 87 

her room and she went to Mr. Robert's room in her 

"And to what conclusion did these activities by 
Mrs. Lincoln lead you?" 

"I ain't sure o' what you said, sir." 

"I said, what do you think of Mrs. Lincoln?" 

"She's batty, sir. Just plain batty." 

"Thank you, Miss Gavin. Your witness, Mr. Ar- 

"My dear Miss Gavin," Arnold began softly, "you 
are a chambermaid. Is that correct?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"And you work in the hotel in which Mrs. Lincoln 

"Yes, sir." 

"And each room in that hotel is soundproofed?" 

"Oh, no, sir." Maggie Gavin's plain face looked 

"Mrs. Lincoln's room is soundproofed then?" 

"No, sir." 

"Is it possible to hear through the walls?" 

"Yes, sir. I suppose so." 

"Well, can you or can't you?" 

"You can, sir." 

"Now, Miss Gavin, since we have established that 
Mrs. Lincoln might very well have heard voices from 
the walls, is there ..." 

88 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"Objection!" Ayer looked indignant. "That has 
not been established. I ask that the witness' answer 
be stricken from the record." 

Judge Wallace sustained the objection and ordered 
the clerk to strike the answer. 

"I will ask you, Miss Gavin," Arnold said slowly 
as if controlling anger, "if you have ever heard voices 
through the walls at the hotel?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"And have you heard noises on the floor below 
through the floor?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"And have you ever looked up suddenly and seen 
smoke and concluded that something was burning?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"Do you consider that this makes you insane, Miss 

"Oh, no, sir! No, indeed!" 

"Thank you, Miss Gavin. That will be all." 

Mary recognized John, the waiter at the Grand 
Pacific, as the next witness. His name, he told Ayer, 
was John Fitzhenry, and he was second waiter at the 
Grand Pacific. She remembered, as he told of it, how 
she had asked him to summon Mr. Turner that day 
when she had seen strange men watching her and was 

Arnold said he had no cross-examination. "This 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 89 

man has testified," he said grimly, "that Mrs. Lincoln 
became fearful of strange men and called for the hotel 
manager. He has not testified that such an action in- 
dicates insanity." 

Judge Wallace rapped his gavel sharply. "The 
clerk will strike Mr. Arnold's remarks. I warn you 
again, Counselor, that this court will not tolerate these 
flippant asides of yours. Watch your tongue." 

Charles Dodge, cashier of the hotel, simply cor- 
roborated the waiter's statements, Mary thought. He 
did not say he regarded her as crazy. She sighed, 
watching as Arnold moved to cross-examine and won- 
dered why he bothered. The man had said nothing. 
Absolutely nothing. 

"Mr. Dodge," Arnold began slowly, "you recited 
your testimony very well." 

"Thank you, sir." 

"Who drilled you in it?" Arnold's voice lashed 
like a whip now. 

"Objection!" Ayer leaped to his feet. "That is, if 
the court please, a leading question." 

"Objection sustained." 

"Now, Mr. Dodge, as cashier of the Grand Pacific 
you would know the owner of it. Is that correct?" 

Mary's eyes widened. What was Isaac Arnold 
up to? 

"Yes, sir," Dodge said. "I know the owner, sir." 

90 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"By name?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"And by sight?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"You know him well?" 

"Yes, sir. Not socially, sir. But I speak with him 

"Yes. Now, Mr. Dodge, will you tell the court the 
name of the owner of the Grand Pacific Hotel?" 

"Mr. Lyman Gage, sir." 

"Yes. And do you see Mr. Gage in this room?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"Please tell the court where you see Mr. Gage." 

"He is on the jury." 

"Very well, Mr. Dodge. Now. Did Mr. Gage ask 
you to come here today?" 

"He was the first to speak to me about it." 

"I see. Others have spoken to you about it?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"And you discussed with them what you would 

"Yes, sir." 

"Objection!" Ayer's voice came late. He rose an- 
grily. "Mr. Arnold seeks to intimidate a witness." 

"Objection sustained. Mr. Arnold, you will confine 
your questioning to facts relating to the matter at 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 91 

"If the court please, your honor," Arnold snapped, 
"the defense regards any conspiracy with witnesses as 
related directly to the matter at hand." 

Murmuring rose in the room again. Judge Wallace 
used his gavel furiously. "Another such outburst, Mr. 
Arnold, and I shall consider a contempt of court cita- 
tion to be required." 

"Very well, your honor. Now, Mr. Dodge, as an 
employee of Mr. Gage, you are inclined to be respon- 
sive to his wishes. Is that correct?" 

"Yes, sir, I suppose so." 

"And these other employees who have appeared as 
witnesses against Mrs. Lincoln also would feel 
similarly, I imagine?" 

"I would imagine so, sir." 

"Thank you, Mr. Dodge. No further questions." 

Mary was surprised to see Mr. Seaton, the United 
States Express Company agent. She remembered, 
however, that she had, indeed, sent eleven trunks to 
Milwaukee last April. It had been her plan, she re- 
membered, to spend an extended vacation in Mil- 
waukee. Was that, too, to be held as insanity? 

Arnold disposed of Seaton briefly. 

"Mr. Seaton, you have sent many trunks for many 
people, I take it?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"Including those of famous ladies of the theater?" 

92 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"Yes, sir." 

"And those famous ladies usually had only one or 
two trunks?" 

"No, sir. Some of them had as many as a dozen or 

"They were staying here for some time, then?" 

"For a week maybe. Maybe two weeks." 

"And you considered them quite sane?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"Even though they carried possibly a score of 
trunks with them for only a one or two weeks' stay?" 

"Yes, sir. They were first ladies of the stage, sir. 
They had to dress the part, sir." 

"And this is the first lady of our country, Mr. 
Seaton. Do you not think she should dress the part, 

"I suppose so, sir." 

"Do you think her insane because she shipped 
eleven trunks to a place where she intended to spend 
the entire summer?" 

"No, sir. Her manner was strange, sir." 

"But not insane?" 

"Strange, sir. I did not say the lady was insane." 

"Thank you, Mr. Seaton. I do not think her insane 
either. No more questions." 

Dr. Isham was the next witness. Mary guessed that 
he would testify concerning the telegram she had sent 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 93 

him from Jacksonville. She guessed correctly. The 
doctor said he had received the telegram March 12 
last and that it said: "My belief is my son is sick. I 
start for Chicago tomorrow." He said Robert was not 
ill at the time and that he telegraphed her to that 
effect. He said Robert, too, telegraphed her to re- 
main in Florida. 

"Mr. Lincoln also received a telegraph. It read: 
'My dearly beloved son, Robert T. Lincoln: Rouse 
yourself and live for your mother. You are all I have; 
from this hour, all I have is yours. I pray every night 
that you may be spared to your mother.' " 

Arnold's cross-examination again was brief. 

"Doctor, how did you come by the telegram sent 
to Robert Lincoln?" 

"He gave it to me." 

"I see." Arnold turned to look directly at Robert 
Lincoln. "You are, Doctor, the nephew of Mr. Lin- 
coln's law partner, is that right?" 

"Yes. That is correct." 

"And you have discussed this trial with your uncle 
and Mr. Lincoln?" 

"Objection!" Ayer's face looked troubled. "I re- 
peat, your honor, that Mr. Lincoln is not on trial 

"Mr. Lincoln is on trial before a higher court than 
this one, Mr. Ayer." 

94 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"I ask the court to compel my colleague," Ayer 
said bluntly, "to confine his remarks to the case at 

"And the court so orders, Mr. Ayer." Judge Wal- 
lace was glowering at Arnold. 

"I have no more questions, your honor, if I cannot 
explore the intricacies of relationship and motive 
which have precipitated this piece of infamy." 

Arnold sat down disgustedly. 

Ayer rose and walked to the witness chair. He 
stood to one side and placed his hand upon the back 
of it. Then he said slowly, "I now call Robert Todd 
Lincoln as a witness." 

Mary felt stabs of pain as her only living son rose 
and walked to the witness chair. What would he say 
about her? Why was he doing this to her? Why? 

She shifted in her chair, her thoughts whirling. The 
space beside her was empty now. Her son had left 
her to side against her. Mary Todd Lincoln looked 
at her son and felt the wash of tears down her cheeks. 

Chapter 5 

Robert Todd Lincoln sat down slowly in the wit- 
ness chair, as if he was very tired. His eyes were 
large, and Mary thought she saw fear and pain in 
them. His face was pale and drawn. He gripped the 
arms of the witness chair nervously. 

Robert averted his eyes from her, but she could 
see that they were moist. 

"Your name, sir?" 

"Robert Todd Lincoln." 

"And your relationship to this case?" 

"I am the petitioner." 

Ayer turned to look at Mary. "And this defendant 
is related to you?" 

"She is." Robert's voice was muffled. "She is my 


96 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"Do you have a statement which you wish to make 
to the court at this time?" 

"I do." 

"Please proceed, Mr. Lincoln." 

Robert spoke slowly, and his voice seemed muffled. 
Only the slowness of his speech reminded her of 
Abraham, Mary thought. Otherwise, he was com- 
pletely different. It was as if he were a stranger. In- 
deed, she thought, he was a stranger. She had never 
understood Robert at all. 

Robert was reviewing the death of his three broth- 
ers — her sons — and that anguished period after his 
father was shot down. It was most unpleasant, he 
was saying, for a son to have to face up to it, but the 
strain had been too much for his dear mother. Her 
mind had cracked. She was quite insane. 

Arnold's soft voice interrupted her concentration 
on Robert's words. She turned to look into his small, 
bearded face. The eyes were gravely thoughtful. 

"Robert is a Stalwart, isn't he, Mary?" 

"Why . . ." Mary studied the small man intently. 
What did this have to do with her sanity? "Yes, he 
is an ardent supporter of General Grant." 

"Do you approve?" Arnold's face was intent as he 
waited for her answer. 

"I have never approved of General Grant," Mary 
said abruptly, "and I certainly do not approve of his 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 97 

spoils system and of those things which are being 
done with aid from the White House." 

"Have you ever heard Robert's name mentioned in 
connection with political matters?" 

"There has been some talk," Mary said thought- 
fully. "He is so young, though. And he professes to 
be disinterested." 

"Yes," Arnold said. "So did Abraham." He 
studied her intently. "Did you know that Swett and 
Judge Davis are anti-Stalwarts? Liberal Republi- 

"I had heard that," Mary said. "I can understand 
it. They were very devoted to Abraham and under- 
standably proud of his integrity." 

"Yes," Arnold said thoughtfully. "They would re- 
sent any use of the Lincoln name to further the 
spoilers' policies, wouldn't they?" 

And with that cryptic observation, Arnold said no 
more. They turned to listen to Robert's testimony 

Robert was now telling about his mother's concern 
for him when she insisted that he was ill. He did not 
understand why she had said that. He hadn't been 
ill in years. Realization that his mother was insane 
had been most sad to contemplate. That was why he 
had taken this action. It would be to her best inter- 
ests to be put away for treatment. As it was now she 

98 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

was a menace to herself. There was no mercenary 
angle to this. He did not want her money. He had 
money in trust for her, as a matter of fact. 

"When she came up from Florida, I met her at the 
railroad car and was quite startled to find her looking 
fit and in good health. She did not even seem fatigued 
by the trip. I asked her if she would not like to come 
to my house and stay, but she said no, and went to the 
hotel. I accompanied her, and we had supper to- 
gether. She told me that someone had attempted to 
poison her at the first breakfast she took after de- 
parting from Jacksonville. She said it was put into 
her coffee. I took a room adjoining hers that night 
and she slept well. But on subsequent nights, she be- 
came restless and repeatedly came to my door in her 
nightdress and aroused me by rapping. Twice in one 
night she did this, and asked to sleep in my room. 
I gave her my bed and slept on the lounge." 

Robert sighed and twisted nervously in the chair. 
Then he bowed his head into one hand. 

"I summoned Dr. Isham to attend to her. That 
was about the time she ceased tapping at my door. 
I had told her rather sternly that if she persisted, I 
would leave the hotel. I went to her room April first 
and found her but slightly dressed, and she left the 
room and the next I knew of her she was going down 
to the office in an elevator. I had the elevator stopped 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 99 

and sought to persuade her to return to her room. 
She said I was being impertinent by interfering and 
would not leave the elevator. I put my arms about 
her, thinking to force her to leave, and she commenced 
screaming. She said, 'You are going to murder me.' 
After a while, she said a man she had met in Florida 
had taken her pocketbook and that he was going to 
return it at five o'clock. Then she sat down by the 
wall and said he was talking to her and began carry- 
ing on a conversation. 

"I called on her during the last week in April, and 
she told me that all of Chicago was going to be burned 
and that she was going to send her trunks to some 
country town. She kept her trunks in the Fidelity 
Safe Deposit Company's building, you see. She said 
she had changed her mind about sending them to Mil- 
waukee. She said it was too near Oshkosh, and there 
had been a terrible fire there the night before. She 
told me that my house would be the only one saved. 
I suggested to her, then, that she leave her trunks 
with me." 

Robert hesitated, as if thinking. 

"And did anything occur the following Sunday, 
Mr. Lincoln?" 

"Yes. Yes, the following Sunday she showed to me 
securities valued at fifty-seven thousand dollars which 
she carried in her pocket. She had been spending 

100 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

large sums of money; she bought six hundred dollars' 
worth of lace curtains, three watches costing four hun- 
dred fifty dollars, other jewelry worth seven hundred 
dollars, soaps and perfumeries worth two hundred dol- 
lars, and a whole piece of silk." 

"Yes. Now tell the court, Mr. Lincoln, whether, in 
your opinion, Mrs. Mary Lincoln is sane?" 

"She is without doubt insane," Robert said. His 
voice was muffled. Mary felt shock clear through her 
to hear him say it this way. 

"Now, Mr. Lincoln," Ayer said, "when you came 
to that sad conclusion, what course did you take?" 

"I had a conference with my mother's cousin, 
Mayor Stuart of Springfield, and Judge Davis of the 
Supreme Court. All advised me to take this course." 

"Do you regard it as safe," Ayer wanted to know, 
"to allow her to remain longer unrestrained?" 

"I do not," Robert said. "She has long been a 
source of great anxiety to me. I have had Pinkerton 
men watching her for the past three weeks. Their 
only duty has been to look after her when she went 
on the street. After all, she had no real home, and 
declined to visit my house because of a misunder- 
standing between her and my wife. My mother has 
always been kind to me, but I fear she has been of 
unsound mind since my father was shot. She has been 
irresponsible for at least ten years. She is eccentric 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 101 

and unmanageable. There was no reason on earth for 
her recent purchases. Her trunks are filled with 
dresses which she has never worn, and, as you know, 
she has not worn jewelry since my father's death." 

"That is all, Mr. Lincoln. Your witness, Mr. Ar- 

Arnold rose slowly, turned deliberately and patted 
Mary's hand. She had dried her tears and was staring 
at Robert with a stunned expression in her eyes. He 
would not look at her, and this hurt her as much, she 
thought, as what he had just said. 

Arnold took his position and studied Robert soberly 
for possibly a full minute. The courtroom suddenly 
was very quiet. Mary wished someone would make 
some noise. It seemed unbearably quiet. 

"Mr. Lincoln," Arnold said softly, at last, "I wish 
you to look at your mother." 

Mary watched as Robert's eyes lifted slowly to her 
bluish-gray ones. She felt the tears start again. 

"You do love your mother very much, don't you, 
Mr. Lincoln?" 

"Yes." His voice sounded husky. 

"Are you aware, Mr. Lincoln, that your mother 
read in a Florida newspaper that you were ill?" 

"No. I had not heard that." 

"Didn't you ask your mother how she had come by 
such misinformation?" 

102 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"No, sir." 

"Why not?" 

"I don't know. It just didn't occur to me." 

"You said, in your lengthy statement, Mr. Lincoln, 
that you did not want any money from your mother. 
Is that correct?" 


"You are certain of that?" 

"Yes. Positive." 

"Now I ask you, Mr. Lincoln, if it is not a fact that 
in December 1868, in a letter to your mother, who 
then was living at Frankfort on the Main in Germany, 
you requested the loan of approximately fifty-one 
thousand dollars' worth of 1881 bonds, which loan 
was to be used in connection with the construction 
here, in Chicago, of twenty-eight houses for specula- 
tive building purposes?" 

"That was different, sir. It offered ten per cent on 
the money for five years." 

"I ask you, Mr. Lincoln, if that is true?" 

"It is." 

"Yes. How, then, do you reconcile that with your 
statement that you did not want any money from 
your mother?" 

"I meant recently." 

"How recently, sir?" 

"Since she has been insane." 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 103 

"Did you not testify, Mr. Lincoln, that your mother 
has, in your opinion, been of unsound mind for the 
past ten years?" 

"I think that is what I said." 

"Do you want the clerk to read what you said?" 

"No. That is what I said." 

"Then, Mr. Lincoln, that would mean that you 
sought to obtain a large sum of money from your 
mother believing her to be insane?" 

"Object! Object! Object!" Ayer stormed toward 
the bench. "I respectfully suggest once again to the 
court that Mr. Lincoln is not on trial here." 

"And I suggest, Mr. Ayer, that Mr. Lincoln is on 
trial. He has made the allegation that his mother is 
insane, involving a question of both her good name 
and her freedom. This is a sanity trial, I grant you, 
but I am not certain in my own mind just who is of 
unsound mind here. The Good Lord knows that cer- 
tainly it is not Mary Todd Lincoln!" Arnold's face 
was white with anger and his voice snapped and 
popped at Ayer. Ayer withdrew several steps. 

"The court," Judge Wallace said sonorously, "will 
sustain the objection by counsel for the plaintiff." 
Wallace glowered at Arnold but said no more. 

"You said, Mr. Lincoln, that you have money in 
trust for your mother?" 


104 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"Objection." Ayer was on his feet again. "If your 
honor please, I see no valid reason for Mr. Arnold's 
pursuit of this line of questioning." 

Judge Wallace stared uncertainly at Arnold. 

"Your honor," Arnold said, in a voice of outraged 
innocence, "I am only following a line of questioning 
suggested by the witness himself. I did not bring up 
the subject of this money. Mr. Lincoln volunteered 
it. If it was germane to the case then, your honor, 
why is it not germane now?" 

"Objection overruled," Judge Wallace decided re- 

"Is it not a fact, Mr. Lincoln, that this money 
which you claim to have in trust for your mother is, 
in fact, an obligation to her which you are paying at 
one hundred twenty-five dollars per month?" 

"My mother calls it a loan, I suppose." 

"She gave to you a certain large sum of money, 
Mr. Lincoln, and you are returning it at the rate of 
one hundred twenty-five dollars monthly. Is that 


"Then I cannot see where Mrs. Lincoln errs in 
terming it a loan. Now, Mr. Lincoln, is it not true 
that you raged at your mother and then left her in a 
fit of anger when she sought to sell some of her cloth- 

The Trial of Masy Todd Lincoln • 105 

ing to collectors in order to raise money to pay cer- 
tain debts?" 

"I became quite exercised, yes." 

"Why, Mr. Lincoln?" 

"I was a young attorney establishing a practice. 
It would have caused me professional embarrassment. 
Besides, she did not need the clothing in the first 

"No more than you needed twenty-eight houses, 
Mr. Lincoln?" 

Ayer bellowed an objection. Judge Wallace said, 

"So you objected to your mother selling her cloth- 
ing on the grounds of personal embarrassment?" 

"Yes. It would have hurt my career." 

"Your career, Mr. Lincoln?" 


"And who would you say launched you on that 
career, Mr. Lincoln?" 

"Why, I suppose it was my mother." 

"Yes. Your mother. She prepared you for and 
used her influence to get you into Harvard, did 
she not?" 


"She insisted that you finish your education there 
before taking up arms in the great war?" 

106 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"Yes." Robert's voice seemed more muffled now. 

"And then she demanded for you a commission and 
a place as an officer on the staff of General Grant?" 


"She has never raised one hand against furtherance 
of your career, but, in fact, has consistently advanced 
that career. Is that right?" 

"Yes. I suppose so." 

"We are not dealing in suppositions, Mr. Lincoln. 
Has she or hasn't she?" 

"She has." 

"Yes. Now, Mr. Lincoln. Why did you not re- 

"I do not follow you, sir." 

"Why did you not discuss your mother's eccen- 
tricities with her instead of hatching this plot four 
days ago and declining to notify her of it until one 
o'clock today?" 

"Objection!" Ayer's face was beet-red. In con- 
trast Robert Lincoln looked very pale. 

"Objection sustained." 

"She gave you time to finish your education, Mr. 
Lincoln," Arnold persisted. "Why did you not give 
her time to prepare a defense?" 

"Objection," Ayer roared again. "Mr. Arnold is 
badgering the witness." 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 107 

"Objection sustained," Judge Wallace said. "Mr. 
Arnold, you will cease this line of questioning." 

"Very well, your honor." Arnold tucked a clenched 
fist into the beard beneath his chin and studied the 
witness thoughtfully. 

"Mr. Lincoln," he said softly, "you have said that 
there was a misunderstanding between your wife and 
your mother." 


"Of what nature?" 

"I cannot say." 

"And have you sought to resolve that misunder- 

"No, sir." 

"Why not?" 

"I cannot say. I have been very busy." 

"So busy, Mr. Lincoln, that you cannot seek to 
straighten out a misunderstanding which prevents 
your mother from coming into her only remaining 
son's home?" 

"I do not understand it," he said. "They used to 
have such affection for one another." 

"Have you tried to understand it, Mr. Lincoln?" 

"I suppose not." 

"I see. You would not say, then, that the antago- 
nism of Mary Harlan, your wife, to Mary Todd Lin- 

108 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

coin, your mother, is due to the influence of your 
wife's father, the senator?" 

The flush rose slowly in Robert Lincoln's face. 

"I would prefer not to say." 

"I see. Very well, Mr. Lincoln. Now, you believe, 
do you, that your mother suffered hallucinations when 
she told you that someone sought to poison her?" 


"Do you find it so strange that there is hostility to 
even the name of Lincoln south of the Mason-Dixon 

"No. But I do not believe that anyone tried to 
poison her." 

"But you do not know, do you, Mr. Lincoln?" 

"Not of a certainty." 

"Yes. Not of a certainty. And you would not take 
her word for it?" 

"I could not." 

"I see. And why not?" 

"I question her reliability, her mental competence." 

"Oh. You question her reliability. Now, Mr. Lin- 
coln, you said that your mother showed to you fifty- 
seven thousand dollars' worth of securities?" 

"Yes. In bonds." 

"You are certain of the amount, Mr. Lincoln?" 

"I believe so." 


The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 109 

"My mother gave me the figure." 

"Ah. Your mother told you?" 


"And you believed her?" 

"I had no reason to doubt her." 

"Ah. You do not doubt her ability to count, but 
you doubt her reliability about the attempt to poison 

"Well, I . . ." 

"Objection!" Ayer was glaring at Arnold. 

"I will overrule that objection, Mr. Ayer. Proceed, 
Mr. Arnold." 

"Thank you, your honor." Arnold turned back to 
Robert. "You complained, Mr. Lincoln, of your 
mother's purchases of perfumeries, jewelry and other 

"I mentioned them." 

"Because you thought it indicated insanity?" 


"Did it ever occur to you, Mr. Lincoln, that per- 
haps your mother purchased those items to give them 
to certain friends?" 


"Were you not aware, during these years, that 
your mother was very lonely and wanted love and 

"I have been quite busy." 

110 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"Yes, Mr. Lincoln, you have." Arnold studied him. 
"But you were not too busy to handle Tad's money 
when a court had decreed that Judge Davis should 
handle his estate, were you?" 

Robert looked startled. He darted a glance at 
Mary. Her smooth countenance was expressionless. 

"Judge Davis was quite busy." 

"We have any number of very busy people in- 
volved here, don't we, Mr. Lincoln?" 

Robert did not answer, but a flush rose in his face. 

"Now, Mr. Lincoln, when your mother waived her 
right under law to two thirds of Tad's estate, did you 
not advise Judge Davis that 'This is very generous 
on her part'?" 

"I did. It was generous." 

"Ah. Then it was generosity?" 

"I looked at it that way." 

"You did not regard it as insanity when she gave 
something to you, then? Only when she gave some- 
thing to others?" 

"Objection! Mr. Arnold is not propounding ques- 
tions. He is drawing conclusions." 

"Sustained," Judge Wallace said. 

"Very well. I need not draw conclusions. I apolo- 
gize to the court," Arnold said. His voice was tinged 
with irony. "The conclusion here speaks for itself." 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 111 

After a pause he went on. "Mr. Lincoln, am I cor- 
rect in recalling that you said you have had Pinkerton 
men watching your mother?" 


"Night and day?" 

"Practically, yes." 

"And yet you find it strange that she has seen 
them and assumed that someone was seeking to do 
her harm?" 

"I did not say that." 

"You say that these men were to protect your 

"Yes. They were to look after her." 

"You did not employ them, then, to gather evidence 
for this trial?" 

"Of course not!" 

"But much of the testimony elicited here today 
comes from the reports of those men. Is that right?" 

"I suppose so." 

"And who has been paying for the Pinkerton serv- 
ice, Mr. Lincoln?" 

"There has been no payment yet." 

"I see. And now if your mother is put away, Mr. 
Lincoln, will you pay this obligation from her 

"Objection!" Ayer was watching the bench. 

112 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"Sustained," Judge Wallace decided. "The wit- 
ness cannot testify to something which has not yet 
been done." 

"If your honor please," Arnold said, "the witness 
can testify to his intent to do something." 

"Mr. Arnold, this witness does not yet have control 
of his mother's money and there has been no indica- 
tion that he will have." 

"Very well, your honor." Arnold turned back to 
Robert Lincoln. "Now, Mr. Lincoln, assuming that 
your dear mother does have some eccentricities, don't 
you believe that the villainous lies of Herndon and 
Lamon concerning your late father contributed to 

"I imagine that they did." 

"And she has stood alone against these enemies?" 

"Objection! Mr. Arnold propounds a question 
based on an assumption." 

"Objection sustained." 

Arnold paused and threw a long, significant glance 
at the jury. Then he threw back his shoulders. 

"The defense has no further use of Mr. Lincoln, 
your honor." Arnold turned abruptly and sat down 
beside Mary. There was a grim little smile on his 

Mary Lincoln clutched at his sleeve. 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 113 

"I am glad you are finished with him, Isaac. Let 
us not torture the poor boy any more." 

"But this is your defense, Mrs. Lincoln!" Arnold 
studied her and she saw the surprise in his eyes. 

"He will suffer a lifetime for having done this 
now," Mary said. "He is more sensitive than per- 
ceptive, I fear. Let us give him as much peace of 
mind as possible." 

"Would you trade your freedom for this, then, my 
dear lady?" 

"Yes. It is done," Mary said. "My day will come. 
The day will come when Leonard Swett himself will 
set me free." 

The next witness gave his name as J. R. Albertson 
and said he was a salesman for Matson and Com- 
pany. Mary recognized him as the man who had 
looked at her so strangely when she purchased the 
chatelaine watch this morning. Under questioning by 
Ayer, he said he knew Mrs. Lincoln, that she had 
come to the store and made expensive and reckless 
purchases, and acted in a queer way generally. 

Again Arnold dealt with the witness briefly. 

"You say, Mr. Albertson, that Mrs. Lincoln acted 
in a queer way generally?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"Will you describe what you mean?" 

114 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"Well, she was in a hurry, like this morning, and 
she paid for the watch she bought." 

"I see. You find it strange for people to pay for 
merchandise these days, do you?" 

"No, sir. I mean, she always seemed troubled, al- 
most sneaky." 

"I see. As if someone might be following her and 
watching her every move?" 


"And in view of Mr. Lincoln's testimony that 
Pinkerton men were watching her night and day, can 
you now understand her actions?" 

"Yes, sir, I believe I can." 

"Thank you. That will be all." 

The next witness was J. B. Stone, a salesman with 
Allen and Mackey, and he testified that he sold Mrs. 
Lincoln three hundred dollars' worth of lace curtains. 
"I thought she did not know what she was doing at 
this time, though." 

Arnold studied the man gravely. 

"But you sold her the curtains anyway?" 



"Business is business, sir." 

"Yes. Business is business, Mr. Stone. I have no 
further questions for such lack of integrity as this." 

Mary watched Dr. Davis take the stand. He had 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln -115 

been kind to her. Why would he testify against her? 
Ayer was looking grim. 

"Now, Dr. Davis, you have examined Mrs. Lin- 
coln, have you not?" 


"And what was your conclusion?" 

"She had no symptoms of epilepsy, but I did not 
regard her as safe to be left alone." 

"You visited her, I believe, years ago, Doctor?" 


"And what did you find then?" 

"She was eccentric, sir, as many of us are. She was 
extremely nervous. But ..." Dr. Davis hesitated, 
and his eyes sought out Mary Lincoln. "I saw noth- 
ing in her to indicate unsoundness of mind." 

Ayer looked stunned. "No further questions." 

Judge Wallace looked at Arnold. Arnold rose. "If 
the court please, the defense has no further questions 
of a witness for the plaintiff who speaks against the 
plaintiff's case." 

The next four witnesses were brief. W. H. Wooster, 
the Wabash Avenue jeweler, said Mrs. Lincoln pur- 
chased watches and spectacles from him, contracting 
a bill of three hundred dollars, but that the goods 
were taken to Robert and he returned them. J. S. 
Townsend of a jewelry firm and E. T. Moulton of a 
drygoods house disclosed similar dealings. T. C. Mat- 

116 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

tock detailed dealings with Mrs. Lincoln and said he 
thought her insane. 

Arnold waived cross-examination, but looked inter- 
ested, Mary thought, when Dr. Johnson took the stand 
to testify that he was satisfied, from evidence he had 
heard, that she was deranged. 

Arnold's voice was disarmingly soft. 

"You say, Doctor, that you believe my client to 
be insane from the evidence you have heard?" 


"And do you know the rule of hearsay evidence, 

"No, sir." 

"It is not admissible," Arnold snapped. "I move 
that this man's statements be stricken for that 

"Motion denied." Judge Wallace managed a bored 
look. "A doctor is entitled to form conclusions from 
what he has heard." 

"But is he entitled to make a diagnosis on the basis 
of hearsay, your honor?" Arnold asked grimly. 

Then he returned to his chair and listened to Dr. 
Smith, the next witness. The doctor said he had 
listened to the evidence and observed Mrs. Lincoln's 
actions, and was of the opinion that her mind was not 
sound. Ayer was satisfied with that. 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln -117 

Arnold moved slowly to Dr. Smith, studying him 

"You are Dr. Charles Gilman Smith?" 

"That is my name, yes." 

"You have treated Mrs. Lincoln professionally?" 

"I have not, sir." 

"I see. Then you, too, are basing your diagnosis 
on what you have been told?" 

"Yes. What I have been told and what I have 
heard here." 

"And you have assumed that all of this testimony 
is true?" 

"Yes." The doctor looked surprised. Ayer's objec- 
tion thundered through the room. The judge said, 

"You doctored Tad Lincoln, did you not?" 


"And other youngsters?" 


"And you always diagnose their illnesses from 
what you are told?" 

"Of course not. I examine them." 

"Ah, so? And why is that?" 

"Why, I want to be sure before prescribing medi- 

"But you do not care to exercise such caution now 

118 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

when the remedy to be prescribed is confinement be- 
hind barred doors, is that it?" 

"Objection," Ayer bellowed. 

"Sustained," Judge Wallace said. 

"During that time when you were doctoring Tad 
Lincoln, how did Mrs. Lincoln's actions strike you, 
Doctor?" Arnold was ignoring Ayer. 

"She was quite nervous and upset." 

"Would you say she was a typically distraught 


"No more than that?" 


"Now, Dr. Smith, to what do you attribute these 
eccentricities and this nervousness which some seek 
to indict as insanity?" 

"Objection!" Ayer turned angrily to Arnold. 
"Counsel for the defense is again putting words in a 
witness' mouth." 

"It seems only fair," Arnold growled. "A sort of 
reciprocal privilege." He managed a surprised look. 
"I am astounded that Mr. Ayer should object to that 
practice, but I shall rephrase the question." 

"Proceed, Mr. Arnold," Judge Wallace said. 

"I will ask you, Dr. Smith, to what do you attribute 
the present condition of Mrs. Lincoln?" 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln '119 

"If she is not of sound mind, sir, I attribute it to 
recent events in her history." 

"Thank you, Doctor. That is all." 

Ayer rose slowly. "If the court please, I shall now 
recall Mr. Robert Lincoln." 

"Is this necessary, sir?" Judge Wallace looked 

"There is a final question which we desire, for the 
benefit of the Lincoln name, to have answered," 
Ayer said. 

"Very well, Mr. Ayer. Proceed." 

Robert moved slowly to the witness chair. His eyes 
were downcast. 

"Now, Mr. Lincoln," Ayer said, "will you tell the 
court whether or not insanity is hereditary in your 

"It is not," Robert said in a low voice. 

"And will you tell us your mother's age?" 

"She is fifty-six," Robert said. 

"That is all, sir," Ayer said. "The plaintiff rests." 

"I assume that there are no witnesses for the de- 
fense?" Judge Wallace inquired smugly. 

Arnold rose to his feet and walked slowly toward 
the bench, and Mary's eyes followed him. 

"That would seem to be a safe assumption, your 
honor, since my client and I have been denied oppor- 

120 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

tunity to summon friendly witnesses. However, even 
within the narrow limits of these unduly harsh and 
penalizing restrictions imposed on us, we have one 

Mary felt surprise wash through her. Where had 
Arnold obtained a witness? Her eyes went to Leonard 
Swett's face. It was a surprised and troubled coun- 

"The defense now calls Mary Todd Lincoln," Ar- 
nold said. 

Chapter 6 

Arnold moved to help her as Mary Lincoln stepped 
up onto the small platform and sat down in the wit- 
ness chair. She was watching his face and his broad 
wink startled her. Swett was still staring at her and 
Robert had raised his head slowly to do so too. Mary 
turned her eyes straight ahead and waited. 

"Now, my dear," Arnold said softly, "I will ask 
you if it is not true that you are Mary Todd Lincoln, 
widow of our great president?" 

Mary said yes softly and Arnold encouraged her 
to speak louder. 

"Yes," she said. 

"And you were sitting beside him when he was 
shot down and his blood was on your dress." 

"Yes. Right here it was." Mary fingered a sleeve, 


122 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

feeling the old splinters of grief being driven through 

"And before that dreadful day you had lost two 
children and seven years later you lost a third son." 


"Now, Mrs. Lincoln, I will ask you if you did not 
rather expect that Robert would look after your in- 
terests after these tragic occurrences?" 

"No," she said, watching surprise cross Swett's 
face. "No. Not Robert. He tended to remain aloof 
from me." 

"And did he ever consult you on business matters?" 

"Only when he wanted money." 

"Only when he wanted money," Arnold repeated. 
"Yes. Now I will ask you, Mrs. Lincoln, if you were 
given any notice previous to about one o'clock this 
afternoon that this sanity action was to be taken 
against you by your son?" 

"No. I had no idea." 

"But you knew men were following you? Spying 
on you?" 

"I was aware that strange men were constantly fol- 
lowing me, yes." 

"And it troubled you?" 

"Yes. Since Abraham's death, you see, I have had 
a fear of strange men." 

"Yes. I see. Now you have heard your son testify 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 123 

that these men were following you for your protec- 
tion ?" 


"Did he tell you that Pinkerton men had been 
assigned to maintain surveillance on you?" 


"And when you told him that strange men were 
following you, did he not then inform you in order to 
relieve your mind and alleviate your fears?" 

"No. He said I was imagining things." 

"I see. And you lived in the Grand Pacific Hotel 
and not your son's home while here?" 


"Why, Mrs. Lincoln?" 

"Robert's wife, Mary Harlan, does not like me. I 
would not have felt comfortable." 

"You would not have been made to feel at home in 
your only surviving son's house?" 

"I would not have felt at home there. That is 

"And so you have been alone, for all intents and 
purposes, since Tad's death, then." 


"Very lonely?" 


"And you have sought friends." 

"I have found friends," she said. "I have my sister, 

124 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

Elizabeth, at Springfield, and her husband, Ninian 

"Then why did you not go there, my dear?" 

"Memories," Mary said, feeling grief twist her face 
again. She fingered the gold ring on her finger. 
"Abraham and I were married there, in that house on 
the hill. Sometimes it seems as if it were but yes- 

"I see," Arnold said softly. "But you have, on oc- 
casions, stayed with them." 


"And did they ever question your sanity?" 

"No. Never." 

"And do you question your sanity, Mary Lincoln?" 

"Of course not. I am quite capable of managing 
my own affairs." 

"Robert's only intimate conversations with you, 
then, in these years since Abraham's death, has con- 
cerned money?" 

"Primarily, yes." 

"And do you think now that money is the reason 
for the present proceeding?" 

"I would rather not answer that, Mr. Arnold." 

"You do not want to tell the world that your son 
seeks to put you away simply to get your money?" 

"Must I answer that question, sir? Must I?" 

"No," Arnold said. "I apologize. I do not believe 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 125 

that the question requires a response from you, 
madame. Your silence is more eloquent than words." 

Arnold turned to Swett and Ayer. "Your witness, 
Mr. Ayer." 

Ben Ayer rose and said he had no questions. The 
judge eyed Arnold questioningly. Arnold said the de- 
fense rested. Mary returned to her seat and watched 
Leonard Swett rise and move to the jurors to pace 
slowly back and forth before them. 

"Gentlemen of the jury," Swett intoned ponder- 
ously, "there falls upon me now the painful task of 
summarizing for you the testimony in this delicate 
case; testimony which demonstrates beyond all doubt 
that Mrs. Lincoln is, indeed, insane. I say to you that 
in the opinion of her most intimate friends, this poor 
woman has been insane since the assassination, and 
that the weight of her woes has been too great for 
her mind to bear. Recently, as she grew more un- 
sound in her actions, Judge Davis, John T. Stuart 
and the physicians who had been consulted, and who 
have testified, advised that the present action was not 
only proper, but would, in fact, be a kindness to this 
aggrieved woman. We can understand and sympa- 
thize with her condition, gentlemen, for no other 
woman in our national history has been asked to carry 
such a cross. And yet, the question before us is not 
one of whether Mary Todd Lincoln can be excused 

126 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

for her condition. The question goes to that condition 
itself. Is she or is she not insane? That is the only 
question which this jury must decide. I therefore call 
upon this jury to render the only possible verdict in- 
dicated by the testimony, and without delay." 

Arnold rose slowly as Swett sat down. He moved 
to the position vacated by the burly lawyer and com- 
menced pacing back and forth before the jurors in 
thoughtful silence. At last he paused to face them, 
and he spoke. 

"Gentlemen of the jury, what insanity is there, I 
ask you, in seeking the friendship of others? What 
madness is there in being kind to people? What un- 
soundness? If this be madness, gentlemen, then let 
us have more of it in this world, for this is the madness 
of Christ. This is what he brought to the world. Love 
is the most powerful force in all of this world, gentle- 
men. Without love, the world would be completely 
mad. And woman, born of man, seeks love. It is a 
food of the soul, and without it, the feminine heart 
pines away to dust; withers coldly. 

"Mary Todd Lincoln brought four sons into this 
world, gentlemen, and her mother love was about 
them as a shield. And one by one, three of them who 
loved her were taken from her. Between the loss of 
her second son and her third one, a husband doomed 
to martyrdom but destined for immortality fell beside 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 127 

her so very close that his life blood spilled upon her 

"It is, perhaps, possible for us to visualize the hor- 
ror of that moment, gentlemen, but I fancy that not 
one of us can know the anguish for this woman, let 
alone the persistent terror which followed; fear that 
another madman, armed and gushing wild Latin 
phrases, might seek to strike down also the lonely 
widow of a giant among men who fell for a cause 
which, thank God, he lived to see free thousands from 
chains of iron laced with intolerance. 

"But she must live on, you see, for there were two 
sons left to her then. She lived for them. And then 
Tad was taken from her and she turned to Robert, a 
woman alone, standing in a shadow of greatness 
which falls across all of us; standing alone in that 
shadow in the bitter ashes of what had been her life. 
And as she turned to this last surviving son to give him 
and his wife her love and affection, where was the 
return of it? Where did reciprocal love and affection 
flee now? Where was this protective arm of a son 
which should have been about her? Where could the 
widow of the Great Emancipator go? The kind of 
intolerance which her prince of freedom for all men 
hated now seethed about her, and she was required to 
face it alone. 

"Ah, gentlemen, we have heard here today words 

128 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

which have the sound of a slattern's gossip and we are 
asked to swallow them as the gospel truth. We have 
heard phrases which glitter with hard malice and 
which have the ring of careful calculation. We have 
heard of voices through walls and through floors, and 
we have heard testimony that it is madness for Mary 
Todd Lincoln to hear such things, but quite normal 
for others to hear them. We have heard an only sur- 
viving son brand his mother as quite mad since that 
dark Good Friday in 1865 when Abraham Lincoln was 
shot down. And yet, we have heard that same son 
testify that his mother was sufficiently sane, in his 
opinion, that he might correspond with her regarding 
a loan of money for speculative purposes. We have 
heard him say that a misunderstanding barred his 
mother from the threshold of his home, and that he 
was too busy to seek to resolve this misunderstanding. 

"Is it so strange, then, that Mary Todd Lincoln 
sought friendship and compassion and understanding 
from others? Where else could she turn? Three sons 
were dead and Abraham was dead, and her only sur- 
viving son did not want her about because he feared 
that her eccentricities might embarrass him and harm 
the career on which she had launched him. 

"I remember my good friend, Abraham Lincoln, as 
he stood tall and straight at the Capitol, only weeks 
before he was shot down, and told his country how he 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 129 

hoped to sew up the grave wounds inflicted on his 
people by civil war. That was in March of 1865 and 
he was delivering his second inaugural address. It is 
a curious thing, gentlemen, and most fortunate for us, 
I believe, that we can know from what he said there 
how he would react today with regard to this grave 
matter which now confronts us here. How? How can 
we know this, you ask? 

"Ah, gentlemen! In Abraham Lincoln, as in but 
few other men since Christ, were rooted the qualities 
of faith and hope and charity. And his greatest qual- 
ity was the greatest one, you see. Sweet charity! 
How would he react indeed? Permit me to recall for 
you his magnanimous words: With malice toward 
none ; with charity for all ; with firmness in the right, 
as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to 
finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's 
wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the 
battle, and for his widow, and his orphan . . .' Yes, 
gentlemen. His widow and his orphan. He spoke elo- 
quently for the widows of others who fell before him. 
He championed them. I ask you, in the name of 
Heaven above, can we do less today for the poor little 
widow of the man who made that plea?" 

Not once had Arnold moved from his position be- 
fore the jury. Now, with an almost imperceptible 
bow indicating that he was finished, he turned slowly, 

130 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

walked to the seat beside Mary and sat down. She 
saw beads of sweat on his forehead. Then she turned, 
at the sound of Judge Wallace's gavel, aware of a 
murmuring in the courtroom. It ceased. 

Judge Wallace fixed stern eyes on the jurors. 

"The court desires to instruct this jury that the sole 
question to be decided by it is the question of whether 
or not Mrs. Lincoln is, in fact, insane, and should be 
sent to an asylum. The jury will now retire to de- 
liberate its verdict." 

Arnold was quiet as the jury filed out. Mary felt 
numb. Simply numb. She watched Robert rise and 
walk to Leonard Swett. They conversed in under- 
tones, both of them glancing occasionally at her. Then 
Robert came to her and extended his hand, and to her 
it was more as if she were some acquaintance than 
his mother. She took his hand limply, thinking that 
she really had nothing to say to him. Splinters of 
anger began to race through her. She rose, drawing 
herself up erectly. 

"Robert," she said gravely. "I did not think you 
would do this." 

She watched as Robert bowed his head. His shoul- 
ders shook. He wept. Swett approached quickly, 
moving between Mary and her son. 

"You must understand, Mrs. Lincoln," he said 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 131 

smoothly, "that this is for your own good. No one 
means you any harm." 

"I am not persuaded by you, Mr. Swett," Mary 
said coldly, "but I shall try to endure these perse- 

The murmuring in the courtroom ceased as the jury 
returned, and this sudden silence halted any further 
conversation with Swett. Mary Lincoln seated her- 
self slowly, studying the faces of the jurors. They 
were peculiarly set, she thought. She told herself: It 
is against me. They will find against me. 

Judge Wallace wielded his gavel vigorously and 
Mary wondered why. There was no noise in the 
courtroom, none at all. The shuffling of feet and the 
nervous coughs had stopped. It was as if everyone 
was holding his breath. 

"Has the jury reached a verdict, Mr. Gage?" 

"We have, your honor." 

"Read the verdict, Mr. Gage." 

Lyman Gage rose slowly, and the paper he held in 
his hand betrayed his trembling. He cleared his throat 

" 'We, the undersigned, jurors in the case of Mary 
Lincoln who is alleged to be insane, having heard the 
evidence adduced, are satisfied that the said Mary 
Lincoln is insane . . .' " 

132 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

Sighing rippled through the room. People were stir- 
ring now. Mary could see the newspapermen. They 
were whispering excitedly among themselves. Judge 
Wallace rapped the gavel angrily. The noise subsided. 

" '. . . is insane, and is a fit person to be sent to a 
State Hospital for the Insane: that she is a resident 
of the County of Cook, in the State of Illinois ; that her 
age is fifty-six years; that her disease is of unknown 
duration; that the cause is unknown; that the disease 
is not with her hereditary; that she is not subject to 
epilepsy: that she does not manifest homicidal or 
suicidal tendencies, and that she is not a pauper.' " 
Gage read his own and the other eleven signatures. 
Then he sat down. 

Arnold had turned to Mary before the reading of 
the verdict was completed. 

"I feel deep shame, Mrs. Lincoln," he said, "that 
anyone should do this to you." 

"It is all right, Mr. Arnold. Perhaps they will send 
me away, but it will not be for long." She eyed Ar- 
nold levelly. "I know that you have done your best, 
but I doubt that even my Abraham could have 
changed this verdict." 

Swett had gone to the bench and was conversing 
with Judge Wallace. People were streaming from the 
courtroom now, and Mary thought that it had become 
a hollow, deserted place again. Arnold rose, excused 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 133 

himself and strode to the Swett-Wallace conference. 
He returned shortly, announcing that it had been de- 
cided to send Mary to Bellevue Place Sanatorium at 
Batavia, Illinois, owned and operated by Dr. R. J. 

Swett was conferring again with Robert. Now he 
turned and moved to Mary. 

"Mrs. Lincoln," he said, "you have fifty-six thou- 
sand dollars in money and bonds on your person, and 
one of the unpleasant necessities of this case is that 
you must surrender them. I could easily obtain a 
court order, or even have the sheriff take them forcibly 
from you, but I sincerely hope that you will not make 
that necessary. Will you not give them properly to 

Mary looked about for Arnold. He was standing 
near by, receiving from the clerk a court order for her 
delivery to an officer. She heard him ask for dupli- 

Mary turned grimly to Swett. "No," she said. 
"Robert cannot now have anything that belongs to 

"Here is Mr. Arnold," Swett said, gesturing towad 
the diminutive counselor. "Won't you surrender them 
to him?" 

"I will not here," Mary said. "They are in my 
underclothing. Certainly, Mr. Swett, you would not 

134 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

be indelicate to me in the presence of these others. 
Please take me to my room. It is so hot in here." 

"Very well, Mrs. Lincoln." Swett sighed. "I will 
be glad to take you to your room. Nothing remains 
but these bonds. Now if you will promise me that 
after you get there you will give them to Mr. Arnold, 
we will go there." 

Mary said she promised that. "May we go now, 

Only once during the ride did she speak up. She 
turned to Arnold, saying, "Mr. Arnold, I have always 
been very careful about my money matters. There is 
no danger that anything will happen to the bonds. I 
am very much fatigued. I need rest. Suppose you 
come down tomorrow and we will talk this matter 

Arnold's face was grim and pale. He flashed a 
glance at Swett and then looked away, and Mary felt 
defeated. They did not speak of it again until Swett 
had closed the door of her room behind them. Then 
he turned to her. 

"Mrs. Lincoln, you promised as a lady at the court 
that if I would not permit those sheriffs to be rude 
towards you, you would give the bonds to Mr. Arnold 
as soon as we came to the room. Now, I am compelled 
to exact the performance of that promise." 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 135 

Arnold studied Swett. "There should be a receipt 
given," he said. 

"Yes." Swett nodded agreeably. "I shall go and 
get some paper." 

He left the room and Mary looked at Arnold with 
tears in her eyes. "What shall I do?" 

"Compose yourself, dear lady. There is little which 
can be done now." Arnold's voice was edged with de- 
termination. "But do not fret. We shall win this one 
yet. It will take time, now, my dear." 

Swett returned, sat down and wrote out a receipt. 

"Read the receipt," Mary commanded. 

Swett complied. " ' Received of Mary Lincoln fifty 
thousand dollars.' " 

"Fifty-six thousand dollars," Mary corrected. 

"I beg your pardon." Swett wrote another receipt, 
read it to her and stood up. "Now, Mrs. Lincoln, the 
receipt is all right, but we haven't got any bonds." 

Mary felt the tears coming again. She rose. 

"And you are not satisfied with locking me up in an 
insane asylum, but now you are going to rob me of all 
I have on earth? My husband is dead, and my chil- 
dren are dead, and these bonds I have saved for my 
necessities in my old age; now you are going to rob 
me of them?" 

"Please, Mrs. Lincoln." Swett looked embarrassed 

136 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

and uncomfortable. "It is for your own good. We do 
not seek to rob you." 

"Yes," she said. "Yes. It is robbery. You are rob- 
bing me." 

Mary felt defeated. Arnold nodded to her when 
she looked at him again. She shrugged and moved to 
the other side of the room. Wearily, as if the hem 
were some great weight, she lifted her outer skirt and 
tugged at the pocket sewn into the top petticoat. 

"Mr. Arnold," she said at last, "will you help me 
please?" Her voice was flat and toneless. 

Arnold moved to her, knelt, and commenced strug- 
gling to extricate the bonds from the pocket. At last, 
he cast a glance upward at Mary. She nodded. He 
grasped the pocket firmly and ripped it free. 

"It is done," Mary Lincoln said. And in that mo- 
ment, she would have given anything to see the cheer- 
ful, kind, sweet face of her friend, Beatrice. 

Chapter 7 

"We are as strangers now," Mary Lincoln said. 
"Robert comes to see me regularly each week, but he 
comes as a stranger. I think that I no longer know 

"We were dumbfounded," the tall, handsome 
woman sitting across from Mary said. "Absolutely 
dumbfounded. We came, of course, as soon as your 
letter arrived. I fear that James and I both thought 
at first blush that perhaps . . . perhaps you were ..." 

"Yes," Mary said tiredly, nodding. "I can imagine." 

"It was after we read your letter," the woman said, 
"that we became convinced that this is an infamous 
outrage. Then we examined the transcript and dis- 
covered the unusual aspects of the entire affair." 

"It was a political trial," Judge James B. Bradwell 
growled. "There is a political tinge to it." 


138 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

Mary experienced faint surprise. These were strong 
words from another judge. 

"I sensed it too/' Mary said. She sighed. "I have 
not followed such things closely since . . . since Abra- 
ham left me, but I did, indeed, sense it. But it doesn't 
make sense, James. No sense at all." 

Myra Bradwell said it seemed that way to her, too. 
"After all, Judge Davis was never really a Republi- 
can. He calls himself an independent, and now he is 
breaking completely with the party in his anger at the 
Grant people. Leonard Swett, I am sure, is no Stal- 
wart, either. He reveres the memory of your great 
husband, Mary, and he detests the Grant Stalwarts 
and all that they stand for." 

"Not Robert, though," Mary said. "He thinks the 
sun rises and sets on Lys Grant. He is really very 
close to the general." Mary managed to keep her dis- 
like for Grant from her voice. She paused, studying 
James and Myra Bradwell, and thanked God for 
friends such as these. They were, after all, a most in- 
fluential couple, one of the most influential in all of 

"It doesn't fit, does it?" Mary said. "Why should 
friends of Abraham Lincoln choose to do this to his 
widow? There is too much of a mixture of Stalwart 
and Reformist and Independent here." 

"By George!" Judge Bradwell socked one fist into 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 139 

an open palm and then commenced stroking his beard. 
"Of course! That's it! Why did it not occur to me 
before?" He rose and commenced pacing back and 
forth. "How blind we have been!" 

"James! What is it? What are you trying to say?" 
Myra Bradwell rose from her chair to stare at her hus- 
band. Mary watched the tall judge curiously. 

"Of course it was political. Of course!" Judge 
Bradwell's voice was tense with suppressed excite- 
ment. He moved to Mary. "My dear lady, isn't it 
true that politicians around Grant have shown signs 
of using Robert's name for the political prestige of the 
Lincoln label on their shoddy doings?" 

Mary grimaced. She said yes, that was true. "Rob- 
ert is becoming increasingly active in the Stalwart 
ranks. Some say they are grooming him for the 
Presidency some years hence." 

"And who would be most interested in destroying 
him then?" 

Mary experienced slivers of surprise and under- 
standing. "Why, the men who loved Abraham and 
cherished his goodness and his integrity." 

"Yes!" Judge Bradwell said emphatically, "You 

Understanding was flashing across the intelligent 
features of Myra Bradwell, but Mary's whirling 
thoughts refused to settle down. She stammered 

140 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

something and Judge Bradwell placed a hand softly 
upon her arm. 

"My dear Mrs. Lincoln," he said, "they seek to de- 
stroy Robert, your son, through you. When the Stal- 
wart regime is faded and worn with its own shoddi- 
ness, they would use a fresh new face and the Lincoln 
name as their champion. They would use the name of 
Lincoln to carry their banner and keep them in the 
White House." 

"Yes," Mary agreed slowly, "that is entirely pos- 
sible. Even most probable." 

"And Swett and Davis and such friends of Abra- 
ham would resent this cynical exploitation of the 
Great Emancipator's immortal name," Judge Brad- 
well said. "They are clever, resourceful and experi- 
enced politicians. They have demonstrated hereto- 
fore that they will stoop to most anything to win." 

"Yes," Mary said, thinking of the convention of 
1860. "Yes, I understand that." 

"And how far could a man bearing even the Lincoln 
name go," the judge demanded triumphantly, "if they 
could say of him that he sent his mother — the lonely 
widow of his great father — to an asylum?" 

Mary Lincoln winced at the word asylum, but her 
small hands gripped the chair arms until her knuckles 
were white. 

"I see," she said, and her voice was filled with sad- 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 141 

ness. "I see." And, she told herself, she did see. Old 
Villain Davis was such a maneuverer. "It was Judge 
Davis' work," she said. "It fits." 

"Davis," Judge Bradwell said, snorting disdain- 
fully. "A judge of the highest court in our land. 
Swett, lawyer; officer of the court. Stuart, a blood 
relative. And Robert. Your son, my poor, dear, be- 
trayed woman, succumbed to their blandishments be- 
cause of your money. They baited a political death- 
trap with your bonds." 

"It is just the kind of trick Old Villain Davis would 
think of," Mary said. Anger burned through her 
slowly. How could they have persuaded Robert to 
turn against his own mother? She voiced the question 

"My dear lady," Judge Bradwell said. "It was you 
yourself who suggested the mercenary motive. I 
simply chose to look a little deeper." 

"Robert has always been rather foolish about 
money," Mary said. "Search for wealth is a compel- 
ling force in his life." 

"He was named conservator of your estate," Judge 
Bradwell said with quiet significance. 

Mary Lincoln felt twists of anguish now. "My 
son," she said. "My only son." 

Judge Bradwell bowed his head. "I am sorry, dear 

142 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

Mary heard a sob. It was Myra Bradwell. "How 
cruel/' Myra said. "How terribly cruel!" 

"It is a mother's risk," Mary said slowly. "I re- 
member Abraham saying that to me after Willie died." 
Wistfully she touched the worn gold ring. "How 
could this come from such love as ours?" She bowed 
her head. 

Myra Bradwell was staring at her husband. "We 
must go and confront Swett with this," she said. "We 
must bring this into the open." 

"And advance the Stalwart cause? Make martyrs 
of the spoilers' wing?" Judge Bradwell shook his 
head. "No, my dear. There is a risk of that." 

"What then?" Myra wanted to know. Mary lis- 
tened intently. 

"We must get Mary out of this place first," Judge 
Bradwell said. 

"Placed in someone's care?" 

"Yes," the judge said. 

"Elizabeth and dear, dear Ninian," Mary said 

"Of course," the judge said. 

"Back to Springfield, where we were wed," Mary 
said, fingering the ring again. Her voice sounded dis- 

"But will they agree?" Myra said. 

"I think they will," Judge Bradwell said grimly. 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 143 

"I think Swett will bend every effort when we con- 
front him with his secret." 

"And Dr. Patterson?" Mary wanted to know. 

"He must stick to his original diagnosis," Judge 
Bradwell said. "He must. But he can hardly oppose 
a trial release." 

"Yes. And then we must write letters," Myra said. 
Her lively features were set determinedly. "Scores of 
letters. We must write to all of our friends in the 
East. We must heap scorn and condemnation upon 
this Robert Lincoln." 

Judge Bradwell was looking thoughtful. He sat 
slowly. "Yes," he agreed, "but there is more. The 
timing is important. We must gear the court action 
to the next Republican convention. The Reformists 
are growing quite strong. Swett and the others could 
not oppose the action to . . ." Judge Bradwell hesi- 
tated, smiling at Mary, "to restore you to sanity, my 

Myra nodded slowly. "I see. If they have a strong 
candidate in the running, it would jeopardize his 

"The Stalwarts will run Blaine," Judge Bradwell 
said. "Old Judge Davis might like to do something, 
as he tried to do in 1872, but he's not big enough." 
Judge Bradwell grinned. "Politically, I mean." 

Myra Bradwell chuckled. "Of course." Mary 

144 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

smiled, thinking of Judge Davis' tremendous bulk. 

"The Stalwarts will try to force a shift to a com- 
promise candidate," Bradwell said. "That must be 
their strategy. They have no one with which to coun- 
ter Blaine. They must rely on a dark horse." 

"When will they meet?" Mary eyed Judge Brad- 
well inquisitively. 

"Next June," he said. "Patience, dear lady." 

"Nearly a year," Mary said slowly, and there was 
dismay in her voice. She sighed. "I shall wait," she 
said, "and write letters." 

"Your friends will free you, my dear," Myra Brad- 
well said. 

"My friends," Mary said, savoring the word. She 
stared at the couple grimly. "Leonard Swett himself 
must set me free." 

"Leonard Swett it will be," Judge Bradwell said. 

"If he refuses?" Mary wanted to know. 

"At the expense of his law practice, his whole 
career?" Judge Bradwell said grimly. Mary shud- 
dered at the naked fury in the big jurist's voice. 

"When we are finished with him," Myra Bradwell 
said, "he will be begging for the opportunity of free- 
ing you, my dear." 

And Mary Lincoln told herself that, now, she could 

"We have much to do, my dear," Judge Bradwell 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 145 


said, as they said their good-bys. "We shall go to 
work immediately to get you to Springfield. We'll go 
directly to Ninian and Elizabeth and have them make 
the necessary request." 

"About Judge Wallace ..." Mary began, but Judge 
Bradwell cut her off. 

"Leave him to me, my dear. I am sure he will 
appreciate the significance of what I have reserved to 
say to him." 

"And Dr. Patterson?" Mary said. 

"Can hardly choose to dispute the judgment of such 
esteemed gentlemen as Swett, Robert, Davis and the 
honorable judge," Judge Bradwell growled. 

Mary Lincoln told herself a month later, after 
Beatrice had come and wept and left her the Tribune, 
that Judge Bradwell had, indeed, called the turn of it. 
Dr. Patterson, apparently irked at publicity growing 
from Ninian's request and from the Bradwell corre- 
spondence, had sought to defend himself in a letter to 
the newspaper. As Mary studied the letter, she told 
herself: He has the unmitigated gall to tell the world 
that I am yet possessed by insanity which did not 
have me in the first place. But he has made a sorry 
mistake, for in this letter he has predicted how I 
will act. Therefore, I shan't act that way at all. I 
shall prove him wrong, 

Mary laid the newspaper down and turned her 

146 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

mind back to the day they had brought her here. 
There were physicians in the private car of the rail- 
road president, but she had ignored them to feast her 
eyes on the lovely scenery of the Fox River Valley, 
burgeoning with the brilliant greens and pastel colors 
of late spring. The nagging headache, which always 
felt to her as if someone were pulling steel wires from 
her head, was gone now. The lovely view was sooth- 
ing to her troubled mind. 

She remembered that she had been ashamed, as she 
rode to the steady click of the steel wheels over rail 
joints, of her actions earlier in the day. At the time, 
though, it had seemed perfectly plausible for her to 
drink the mixture she believed to be laudanum and 
camphor. Her head ached badly, and it occurred to 
her that if the medicine soothed the pain of neuralgia 
in her arm, as it did, it must certainly soothe the pain 
in her head. It had been a foolish thing to do, she 
told herself now. Robert and her enemies promptly 
represented to the press that it was a suicide attempt. 
She was glad, now, that the discerning drugstore clerk 
had given her a harmless mixture instead of what she 
had ordered. 

Myra BradwelPs pleasant voice interrupted her 
thoughts, and she turned to greet her friend warmly. 
Myra said her husband wasn't with her this time. 
"He's very busy and, as you no doubt have heard, has 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 147 

brought forth a defensive statement from Dr. Pat- 

Mary said yes, she was just reading it. She picked 
up the Tribune. 

"He is a man, I perceive, who suffers pangs of con- 
science now," Myra said. "This flood of letters and 
the resulting publicity in the papers trouble him 
greatly. He says it is not true that he has certified 
you to be of sound mind, though, Mary. Yet he ad- 
mits that reports in the press about arrangements 
being perfected for you to go to Springfield are true." 

"Here is his mistake," Mary said grimly. She read 
aloud: " 'I am willing to record the opinion that such 
is the character of her malady she will not be con- 
tent . . . and that the experiment . . . will result only 
in giving the coveted opportunity to make extended 
rambles, to renew the indulgence of her purchasing 
mania and other morbid mental manifestations.' " 
She put the newspaper down. "I shall disprove those 
statements," Mary said firmly. "And I shall disprove 
those statements made at my trial, too. I shall show 
the world the kind of restraint of which Dr. Patter- 
son says I am incapable. I shall master these urges to 
buy which assail me, and I shall demonstrate ability 
to live quietly in one place." 

"My dear Mary," Myra said softly, "this wander- 
lust which has gripped you since Abraham's death is 

148 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

perfectly understandable. You seek to escape intoler- 
ance. There is no insanity in this." 

"Yes, but there are politicians today who do not 
want the widow of Abraham Lincoln in the public eye. 
My appearance anywhere bestirs memories of a man 
whose integrity as a president establishes sharp con- 
trasts when put alongside the reputations of some 
vandals now in office. " 

Myra sighed. "How terrible/' she said, "to be 
hated and feared by the Stalwarts, and to be used as 
an instrument against their perpetuation in office by 
the other wing. Is there no peace for you?" 

"Yes," Mary said thoughtfully, "but I shall not 
rush it." 

Myra obviously had decided to change the subject. 
"And is everything still all right with you, my dear?" 
She stared about the room. "It seems pleasant 

"Oh, my physical surroundings are nice enough," 
Mary said. "I am permitted to shop now and then, 
in Aurora. The food is good. I detest these barred 
windows, of course, and the attendants are with me 
constantly. It is the stigma which irritates me most — 
the desire for vindication. It fairly overwhelms me at 
times. It is something I must obtain for peace of 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 149 

"Have the reporters bothered you, my dear?" 
Myra looked solicitous. 

"Very little." Mary sighed. "They press one so, 
you know, but then I suppose that their impatient 
searching is but a requirement of their work. They 
are gentlemen, really. I fear that I forget myself at 
times. I fancy sometimes that I am back in the White 
House, you see, and that Abraham is near me. Is it 
madness to pretend? Those were happy days, you 
see, even though the great war was all about us. I am 
just a little old lady, then, pretending that I am with 
what used to be. They interrupted my reminiscences 
one afternoon, and I fear that I left with them the 
impression that I truly believed myself back in Wash- 

"They wrote that you keep the curtains drawn and 
lighted candles about the room," Myra observed. 
"You can understand that such news cannot help but 
contribute to the impression which your persecutors 
seek to preserve." 

Mary sighed again. "How difficult it is," she said, 
"for someone quite sane, but suspected of being a 
lunatic, to act sane. Every little act is subjected to 
strange scrutiny. The bars across my window bother 
me, and so I draw the curtains now and then to hide 
them from my view. I sit alone, you know. So often 

150 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

through the years I have done that. And now I sit 
alone with living flesh and blood of me near by, in 
Chicago, and still I have no sons left to me now. None 
at all. Robert is some stranger. My son has gone 

"Dear lady," Myra said. She patted Mary's hand. 
"I really must rush on. If the train is on time, I must." 

"Trains are always on time," Mary Lincoln ob- 
served, "when a dear one must leave." 

Myra smiled. "I shall send word," she said. "I 
intend to see Robert tomorrow. He tells me that he 
is coming out here again. Perhaps he will be able to 
tell you." 

"It would," Mary Lincoln said, "be quite apropos." 

"We expect it to be early this month," Myra said. 
They exchanged fond farewells, and then Myra Brad- 
well was gone. 

It was early the following afternoon, a clear, bright 
September day, that Robert and little Mary Lincoln 
came to see Mary Todd Lincoln for the last time at 
Bellevue. She was dozing by the window and it star- 
tled her, at first, to see the child. Then she struggled 
sleepily to her feet and smiled. 

"My dear little Mary," she said. "I should have 
liked to have a sunny child like you." 

Her grandchild lisped a reply, and then Robert's 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln '151 

shadow fell across her, and she erased the gentle smile. 
Her mouth was set firmly in her smooth, round face. 
She lifted sober eyes to her only living son. 

"Ah, Robert. So you have come again?" 

"Yes, Mother. How are you?" The eyes into 
which she looked were troubled ones. 

"I am well, Robert." Mary used the distant, de- 
tached tone of voice which came naturally to her now 
when she spoke with Robert, as with other strangers. 
Her voice grew warm again. "And how is little 

"He is well, thank you." Robert's voice was a sigh. 
"I have seen the Bradwells. Have they told you?" 

Mary said Myra had told her that he would bring 

Robert sighed again. "The letters have been cruel," 
he said. 

"There is retributive justice in this world, Robert. 
I have a stain upon me now. Nothing can erase it." 

Robert's manner became eager now. "September 
tenth," he said. "Ninian Edwards will come for you. 
I shall escort you, too, if you wish." 

"Ninian will suffice," she said, and there was a cold- 
ness in her voice. "I should prefer only a friend." 

She saw the hurt in Robert's face, and it twisted 
inside her, but she said no more. It was strange, Mary 

152 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

thought at that moment, how much her son's troubled 
brow looked like Abraham's. 

"I have arranged for Amanda to be with you at 
Springfield," Robert said. "You seem to prefer her 
of all the . . . the attendants." 

Mary said yes, that was true. 

"I shall forward checks to Uncle Ninian for your 
comfort and support, and if you will communicate 
any other wishes to me, I shall see to them." 

Mary ignored this. Instead, she moved to a closet 
and said, "I have two doll babies here for Mary." Her 
eyes returned to Mary and lighted again. "You will 
love them, child. They are so sweet. Almost real, 
they are. Fine workmanship. Made in Germany, I 

She procured the dolls and tucked them into the 
child's arms. 

"Thank you, Grandmama," little Mary said. "They 
are pretty, Grandmama." 

"Little Mary." Mary Lincoln knelt to hug her 
granddaughter and she felt tears come to her eyes. 
"Children are a blessing," she said, wondering why 
she should tell this to a small child. She rose suddenly, 
and her eyes caught Robert's pained ones. "But they 
can cause one great pain," she muttered. 

They continued to talk as strangers, and Mary told 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 153 

herself that Robert did not realize the extent of the 
resentment against him now building within her. She 
also realized, from his voice and actions, that he 
thought her quite mad, and yet happier than she had 
been. If he could only know! she thought. How it 
would shock this man now strange to me if he were 
to know! 

When Robert and little Mary had gone, Mary Lin- 
coln turned to the ever-present attendant hovering 
near by. "If you will order my carriage prepared and 
alert my nurse," she said abruptly, "I should like to 
go into Aurora tomorrow. I have some final shopping 
to do." 

She saved the gifts she obtained on that shopping 
trip carefully, keeping them in a closet until Ninian 
came for her. She told herself, thinking of Dr. Patter- 
son's letter, that she must be careful about such pur- 
chases now. This was no indulgence of a purchasing 
mania, as he called it, but she thought she really 
ought to give those who had been kind to her at this 
place some little remembrance. Socks for the men, 
perfume for the ladies. They would appreciate it 

Ninian was in a jolly mood when he came. He had 
arranged a private car for her, he said, for the trip to 
Springfield. The Fox River Valley was a riot of fall 
colors now. The trip would do her good, and she could 

154 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

rest at Springfield. Robert had remained with the 
private car at the tracks. Dr. Patterson would join 
them there. 

It pleased Mary to distribute the gifts she had 
bought. She gave each one to the person for whom 
she meant it, and some of the ladies had tears in 
their eyes. 

"What about my property?" Mary wanted to 
know. "There are so many trunks. Trunks here, 
some in Milwaukee and some at Robert's house, I 
believe." She stared down at her somber black attire. 
"My box of jewels, I believe, is at the bank." 

Ninian Edwards patted the small hand of his sister- 
in-law. "Please do not fret about these things, Mary. 
They will be attended to all in good time." 

His presence reassured her. This was no trick of 
Robert's, she told herself. Not with Ninian here. She 
spoke briefly to Robert, nodded to Dr. Patterson and 
seated herself by a window, staring into the distance. 
Once in Springfield, she thought, there would be many 
more letters to write. How long would it take, she 
wondered, to get another trial? 

The train lurched and moved forward, and she 
caught a glimpse of herself reflected in the window. 
Her face seemed very pale, almost as if chiseled from 
white marble. Her bluish-gray eyes were large and 
luminous, and her mouth sad. 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 155 

She thought, I am returning to the place where 
Abraham and I were wed. There will be friends about 
me again. 

She blinked her eyes and ceased her meditations. 
Then she focused them upon the brilliant autumn 
hues now mottling the Fox River Valley. It had been 
verdant with spring greens when last she saw it. Now 
the frosts had come and painted colors across it. It 
was like life, she thought. She was in her autumn, too. 
How many years yet? How many? Mary Todd Lin- 
coln felt tired and alone again. She could not mind it 
when release came, she told herself, but neither would 
she seek it. She straightened then, and thrust her 
small chin forward resolutely. But first the trial, the 
vindication. Then let it come when it would, but not 
among strangers. 

The room on the second floor of her sister's home in 
Springfield was a pleasant, sunny one. Even during 
the cold winter months, warm sunlight slanted 
through the windows, and Mary Lincoln sat there 
and wrote her letters and dreamed of the day when 
she might have another trial. 

A kind of peace she had not known for years set- 
tled over her. Ninian was kind to her, and so was her 
sister Elizabeth. Frances, her other sister, visited 
now and then. Mary was always glad to see her, too. 
That first day, after her arrival, she had seen the 

156 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

children, passing the house on their way to school. 
They had stared curiously at the second-story win- 
dow, and behind the curtains Mary flinched, wonder- 
ing what stories these children had been told about 
her presence here. 

That was why she wanted the curtains drawn, she 
told herself. There were no eyes filled with malice 
here, but eyes filled with curiosity and pity hurt every 
bit as much. And often, therefore, she wrote during 
daylight hours by candlelight. A kind of intolerance 
which Abraham had fought still lurked in the world 
just beyond the windowsill. 

The winter months wore on, their passing measured 
by the steady scratching of Mary's busy pen. Spring 
came and winter's coldness fled, and Mary did not 
have the curtains drawn so often now. The long fight, 
she told herself, was nearly over. She stared about the 
room at her trunks and possessions. Why did she keep 
them here, so close about her? She knew the answer 
to that question. 

They had tried, last year, to take everything from 
her. Indeed, they had taken her money and her bonds. 
And now she would collect her belongings once again 
and have them with her in the twilight of her life. 

It had seemed an eternity, really, she told herself, 
that June day when Ninian's footsteps sounded on 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln -157 

the stairs. He knocked and she said to come, and his 
face was creased with a gentle smile as he entered. 

"Mary, the arrangements are made." 

Her heart leaped. To be free again, really free! 

"I have conversed with Mr. Leonard Swett and he 
is agreeable to our plan. We shall petition for re- 
moval of Robert as your conservator and for restora- 
tion of all rights, privileges and property. Mr. Swett 
seems pleased that he is to be granted the privilege 
of doing you this favor." 

"Mr. Swett," Mary said grimly, "is undoing that 
which he did to me a year ago." She studied Ninian. 
"Will Robert be there?" 

"He need not be," Ninian said. 

"Good," Mary said. "I have caused a fury to rage 
about him, and I do not want it in the courtroom 
again." She paused. "And Dr. Patterson?" 

"Will not be there," Ninian finished for her. "The 
Bradwell correspondence has quite subdued him." 

"When will it be?" she wanted to know. 

"This afternoon," Ninian replied. "Blaine failed to 
get the nomination. Judge Bradwell arranged it im- 
mediately. Leonard Swett will be your attorney. It 
is all arranged." 

"As before." She said it as a statement of fact and 
not as a question. 

158 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

Ninian smiled. "As before," he said, "but much 
less painfully. It should be very short." 

"It is all arranged then," she said flatly. 

"As before," he said, and she detected a kind of 
joyous sarcasm in his voice. 

"And so the Stalwarts have been downed," she 

"It will require more than a nomination," Ninian 

"Yes." Mary grimaced. "They will try to get to 
the nominee. Who is he?" 

"Rutherford B. Hayes," Ninian said. "They say he 
is a reformer." 

"How I stopped them once," Mary said. "How I 
kept them from their little games! And Abraham did 
not even know. He trusted them, I suppose. I could 
understand this. But I stopped them, and they hate 
me for it yet." 

"Yes," Ninian said. "I know, my dear." There 
was a pause before Ninian went on. 

"James and Myra Bradwell are overjoyed. They 
have turned it for you, Mary." 

"I will be free to manage my own affairs," she 


"Restored to sanity." Her voice was sarcastic. 

"Yes." Ninian 's voice was sad. 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln -159 

"Mockery," she said. 

"Mockery," he repeated. "But poetic justice, too." 

The trip to Chicago, like the winter's waiting, 
seemed an eternity. Her nose was smudged and she 
felt sticky, but Mary Lincoln did not mind. The 
trial came and then was over, lasting only minutes. 
Ninian was the sole witness. He told the court that 
her friends all said she was of sound mind and capable 
of managing her own affairs. "We think she is sane 
and capable of managing her own property." 

"And Robert Lincoln, sir? What is his disposition 
in this case?" 

Judge Wallace had directed his query to Leonard 
Swett. Mary watched color flow into the burly law- 
yer's face. 

"I had assumed, your honor, that the court had 
been informed," Swett said. "Mr. Lincoln does not 
oppose the action. He waives all technicalities." 

"The court has been informed, Mr. Swett. The 
court wanted it in the record." Judge Wallace paused. 
"And Dr. Patterson?" 

"The doctor chooses not to appear," Swett said 

Judge Wallace said he understood. He told the jury 
it might retire and deliberate, but the foreman said 
that would not be needed. 

"You have a verdict ready, sir?" 

160 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"Yes, your honor." 

"And what is the verdict?" 

The foreman read from a piece of paper: " 'We, the 
undersigned jurors in the case wherein Mary Lincoln, 
who was heretofore found to be insane and who is 
now alleged to be restored to reason, having heard the 
evidence in said cause, find that the said Mary Lin- 
coln is restored to reason and is capable to manage 
and control her estate. ' " 

"Again," Mary Lincoln said, "the rehearsals have 
been most thorough." 

Ninian shushed her. She felt both a fury and a 
jubilance rise within her. She managed to keep her 
smooth countenance inscrutable. Only once, during 
the return trip to Springfield, did she break her self- 
imposed silence. Ninian turned to her thoughtfully. 

"You are very quiet, Mary. Are you not satisfied?" 

"I have been thinking, Ninian," she said. "I was 
arrested, tried, found insane and ordered put away 
within four hours' time. I came back, was tried, found 
sane and ordered released in four minutes' time. Can 
it be now that anyone will doubt that these were 
political sanity trials?" 

"Yes, dear Mary," Ninian said sadly. "There will 
be doubt and ignorance. Some day, perhaps, the 
world will know." 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 161 

"Yes," she said. She studied Ninian. "Rutherford 
B. Hayes ... I do not know him. Is he a good man?" 

Ninian shrugged. "Time will tell. Robert Inger- 
soll's plumed knight thinks not." 

"He is a prophet," Mary said, "without honor 
'neath his visor." She studied for a moment. "And 
Robert is a little boy lost." 

And then Mary Todd Lincoln was silent, deep in 
thought. She would now write Robert a letter which 
he would carry seared into his mind and soul to his 
dying day. 

Vengeance is mine, she told herself, and though 
she knew this was wrongful fury, she vowed to fol- 
low it. 

Upon arriving back in her room, Mary Todd Lin- 
coln hurriedly procured her pen and paper and com- 
menced to write, but the fury rose in her and choked 
her, and she left it. For thirteen ugly months, she 
thought, she had been marked and handled as a luna- 
tic, and this was all because of a weakness in her son. 
The stain which she now felt would last her life had 
been dashed on her by men with political motives, and 
they had betrayed her to her own son. 

It was June nineteenth before she could bring her- 
self to write the letter. Yet, she shrieked back at a 
shrieking conscience, it must be done. Outside, some- 

162 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

one snickered and she started. Then she moved to the 
heavy curtains and drew them closed. The candle 
wicks stubbornly resisted her efforts to set fire to 
them, but at last fliey flickered feebly and then 
brightened. She adjusted them on the table and sat 
down slowly, picked up her pen and dipped it thought- 
fully. The months of bitterness welled up within her. 
She put the pen to the paper and began: 

Robert T. Lincoln do not fail to send me without 
the least delay, all my paintings, my silver set and 
other articles your wife appropriated. . . . 

The pen scratched furiously as its user wrote angry, 
calculated words. She paused at last to study her final 
remarks, then nodded. 

Send me all that I have written for, you have tried 
your game of robbery long enough. On yesterday, I 
received two telegrams from prominent Eastern law- 
yers. You have injured yourself, not me, by your 
wicked conduct. 

Mary told herself that she did not really believe 
this. Robert had been hurt, but not so much as she. 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 163 

There was a stain on her now. She was Mary Lin- 
coln, Lunatic. 

Mary studied the letter again soberly. She thought 
of Mary and Abraham, Robert's children, and of 
Jessie Harlan, who would not be a year old until 
November. She sighed and thought then to tear the 
letter to shreds and forget about it, but she could not 
bring herself to do that. She picked up the pen again, 
reluctantly, and signed the letter: Mrs. A. Lincoln. 

Her restlessness increased during the weeks that 
followed, and she thought more than once to pack up 
and leave, but the words of Dr. Patterson's Tribune 
letter haunted her. What was it he had written? Oh, 
yes. About "the coveted opportunity to make ex- 
tended rambles." 

The mark of insanity with which they had stained 
her was a burning shame on her now as October's chill 
approached. Warm climates called to her. Where 
would they be? 

Pau, she thought. That was it. Pau, capital of the 
old province of Beam, in France. Pau, where the air 
was clear and warm and soothing, and where the sun 
shone brightest in the winter months. An ideal resort 
for nervous persons, she remembered. A place of 
strangers, too. This, she told herself, was most im- 
portant of all. 

164 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

She mentioned it to Elizabeth the following day, 
and watched the startled look cross her sister's coun- 

"But your friends are about you now, Mary. 
Would you leave them? And your things are here. 
All of your things. It seemed to me, dear sister, that 
Robert gave to you a most scrupulous accounting.' ' 

"Yes, Lizzie." Mary sighed and managed a grim 
little smile. "Including the expenditure of a hundred 
and fifty-one dollars for hack hire and shadowing by 
Pinkerton detectives." 

"But would you go abroad, Mary? To a land of 

"There is more tolerance for a Lincoln's widow 
there than here," Mary said. "I cannot endure to 
meet my former friends, Lizzie. They will never cease 
to regard me as a lunatic. I feel it in their soothing 
manner. If I should say the moon is made of green 
cheese, they would heartily and smilingly agree with 
me. I love you, but I cannot stay. I would be much 
less unhappy in the midst of strangers." 

Mary watched disappointment flood her sister's 
eyes, and then surrender. Lizzie, Mary decided, 
would not argue the matter further. 

"And will you write again to Robert, Mary? Your 
last letter to him has caused him great grief." 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 165 

"I know no Robert," Mary Lincoln said. "There 
were three sons and they are taken from me now. I 
do not know this Robert. Who is Robert?" 

And Mary Lincoln turned from her sister and 
mounted the stairs to her room. 

Chapter 8 

Bundled in a blanket, Mary Todd Lincoln sat 
quietly in the deck chair and watched the New York 
skyline loom ever larger on the reeling horizon beyond 
the steamer Atnerique's bow. 

The sun was warm on her face, but the sea breeze 
was chilly. It seemed to pierce the heavy robe in 
which the ship's nurse had wrapped her. She shifted 
uncomfortably, feeling the fiery flash of pain streak 
up her back. She lay back wearily, reflecting how 
very tired she was these days. If only she hadn't 
fallen off that stepladder back in Pau, she reflected, 
she might have made it. She might have lived out her 
remaining years among those strangers whose very 
ignorance of her true identity had been as a shield 
about her. 

These had been lonely years, she thought, with not 


The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 167 

one familiar face in them. And yet they had been the 
happiest ones she had spent since Abraham was shot 
down. There was, she decided, a great deal to be said 
for solitude. Mary sighed as she turned her mind to 
Robert. She could not forgive him, nor Swett, nor 
the others. Not even now, when it no longer mattered. 
Robert was successful in his way. A good lawyer, 
they said, and a good cabinet member. Mary thought 
about that. 

Mary turned her mind back to herself; there was 
decidedly something wrong. The constant thirst, the 
boils, the loss of weight and the failing sight; the 
palsied hands, the great weariness and the sudden 
onslaught of age marks long held back, which had 
brought white to her hair and deep lines about her 
eyes and mouth. She watched the ship's nurse ap- 
proach, balancing a glass of water on a small tray. 
The nurse smiled and bent low, so that she might take 
the glass. She hesitated and then raised the glass 
precariously to her lips to drink deeply, and when 
she had finished, she breathed hard and then drank 
again. At last she put the emptied glass back on the 

"I have such a thirst," she said simply. "It is with 
me all the time." The nurse's pleasant features were 
blurred and Mary squinted to focus her eyes. 

"Water is good for madame," the nurse said. Mary 

168 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

wondered if this nurse knew her true identity. She 
doubted it. She had managed to keep the secret for 
so long that she had become expert at it. Robert, her 
only living son, had made her a stranger, she thought. 
She could not bear the label he had fastened to her: 
Mary Lincoln, Lunatic. 

"I crave water so," she said. "It is one of many 
torments. My back, the boils and the constant run- 
ning waters." She felt a slight flush warm her cheeks 
and wondered if it was indelicate to speak of it this 
way. She decided not. This was a nurse. "It is most 
inconvenient," she finished lamely. 

The nurse's eyes were kind. Mary Lincoln thought 
of Beatrice. She had the same sort of eyes. 

"Are you comfortable, madame? Perhaps a little 

Mary said no, she was much too tired for that. 
Perhaps it was the air. "It has helped my appetite, 
but I continue to lose weight. I am below one hun- 
dred pounds now." 

"Then you must conserve your strength, madame, 
for the docking. It will be soon now. Are you all 
packed and ready?" 

Mary said yes, thank you, her baggage arrange- 
ments had all been made. "Will it be soon now? lam 
very anxious to set foot ashore again." 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 169 


She wasn't really, she told herself. She was not 
anxious to set foot on American soil at all. There 
was a stigma lurking here which attached to her. 
There was a stain on her here which nothing could 
erase now. Not even death. Her first-born had seen 
to that. 

Mary squirmed beneath the blanket again and 
found a position in which the gnawing spinal pain 
seemed not so great. She thought that perhaps she 
ought to go directly to Dr. Lewis A. Sayre in New 
York. He was the leading orthopedic surgeon of his 
time. He could determine quickly if this great weari- 
ness stemmed from her fall. She remembered, then, 
that some had branded her insane because of her pre- 
vious complaints about this other illness which had 
grown with the years. She decided against going to 
Dr. Sayre immediately. She would go back to Spring- 
field, instead, and try to rest there. If her symptoms 
grew worse, then she could come back here. 

"Have you been abroad long, madame?" The 
nurse's voice thrust itself into her thoughts. 

"Four years," Mary said. "That is, it will be four 
years in October. But this is October, isn't it?" 

The nurse said yes. "The first. My! You have 
been away for a long time." 

Mary Lincoln sighed tiredly. October 1, 1880. "I 

170 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

spent most of the time in Pau, living in a small apart- 
ment," she said. "I would be there yet had it not 
been for the fall." 

"The fall, madame?" The nurse looked interested 
and Mary remembered that she had not told her 
about that. 

"It was such an irony," Mary said, and in spite of 
herself, she smiled faintly. "Lace curtains have been 
my downfall before." 

"Lace curtains?" 

"Yes. They were hanging crooked, you see. I 
could never stand to see such curtains hanging 
crooked, and so I fetched a ladder and climbed up to 
adjust them. It was then I fell. It was painful. Very 
painful. I was in bed for weeks." 

Mary was thinking that Dr. Patterson could never 
accuse her now of living in any manner but an un- 
pretentious one. She had lived alone in the small 
apartment, spending most of her time there. There 
had been little prodding by the curious except for that 
one time when a tourist from America thought he 
recognized her and told others of it. That was in 
April of 1877, she remembered. This, coupled with 
the fact that the weather was getting colder at Pau 
and the boils were bothering her again, had sent her 
on a trip to Marseilles and Naples and Sorrento. The 
warm sunshine seemed to help more than anything 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 171 

else. But in the end she had returned to Pau. After 
all, it was the most noted health resort in all of 
Europe, and they said the Vichy water would be good 
for her. 

She grinned at that. The Vichy water had not 
helped one bit as far as she was concerned. 

"Is the pain of that fall still with you, madame? 
Is that why you walk so slowly and so uncertainly ?" 

Mary said that was a great part of it. "The weak- 
ness is the rest. Sometimes when I am on my feet I 
feel faint and weary and I must take hold of some- 
thing to steady myself. It was not the fall alone. It 
has been many things, many things through the 

"It will be good for you to get home again, madame. 
It is good to be with friends and family. You have a 
family, of course?" 

Mary told the nurse about her sisters and her 
grandnephew, Lewis Baker, Jr., but she did not men- 
tion Robert. She thought again of her first-born son 
and sighed. She had not communicated with him in 
all this time. Maternal love and pride had only once 
pierced the cold barrier which had risen between 
them — when she read in a Parisian newspaper that 
he was being mentioned as a possible presidential 
candidate. She had derived a grim sort of pleasure 
out of that. Robert would never make it, she told her- 

172 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

self. Not now. Politicians had seen to that at her 

Mary told herself that her son did possess some 
good qualities, but they were not those which had 
marked Abraham as a man apart. Abraham, she 
thought grimly, had been kind, even to his step- 

Mary had not forgotten Robert's children, though. 
This was particularly true of her little namesake 
Mary. She wondered why they had nicknamed the 
child Mamie. Through Lewis Baker she had sent 
many small presents to the child. She turned her mind 
back to Robert and felt the old bitterness well up 
within her. God forgive her! She could not bring 
herself to turn the other cheek. Not even to her own 
flesh and blood. She sighed and decided that she was 
not at all like Abraham in such matters. No. Not at 
all. She was just not like her husband. She could 
never forgive Robert for what he had done. 

A young couple walked by, conversing animatedly 
and pointing to the rising skyline of the great city 
just ahead, and both turned curious faces toward her. 
She lowered her eyes and averted her face. It was 
curious, she thought, how she seemed to shrink away 
from the outside world now. She decided she was 
tired of faces. All faces. She found a certain ironic 
humor in this. There had been years when she wanted 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 173 

everyone to see her. The whole world. Now she did 
not particularly care to see anyone. Not anyone. 

"I will be most happy," she muttered, "when I am 
with Abraham again." 

"Oh? Is Abraham a son?" 

"My husband," Mary said. 

"And you have been away from him four years?" 
The nurse looked puzzled. 

"No. Fifteen years," Mary said. "Abraham is 

"I wondered if you were married," the nurse said, 
"and then I saw the ring." 

"Ah yes, the ring." Mary studied it, and removed 
it. It was very worn now, she thought. "It is Etrus- 
can gold," she said simply. "I have had it many, 
many years." Her eyes studied the inscription and 
though it seemed blurred to her, she knew what it 
said: A. L. to Mary, Nov. 4, 1842. Love is Eternal 
"It is quite old," she said. "Thirty-eight years next 
month, as a matter of fact." 

"Thirty-eight years?" The nurse looked aston- 

"Yes, my dear. More years than are upon you, I 
venture." She managed a faint smile. "Yes, I 

"And your husband has been gone for fifteen 
years," the nurse said slowly. "I am sorry, madame." 

174 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

Mary felt the old anguish which always seemed so 
fresh and new drive itself through her again. Pain 
flamed up her spine and her vision blurred even more. 
The crushing weariness seemed to make her sag in- 

"Yes, fifteen years. The war . . ." 

"Oh. The Civil War?" The nurse looked sad. 
"Yes, they say it took so many. That has been some 
time now. I was a very little girl then." 

"Sometimes," Mary said tiredly, "it seems like an 
eternity, but then I can stand an eternity, you see. 
Our love was eternal. It is eternal." 

The young woman's eyes probed into hers now and 
they softened. "It is good to know, madame, that 
such love exists." She looked thoughtful and said, 
"Fifteen years ... I thought that the war was over 

"No," Mary said. "Sometimes I think it was only 
just beginning then." 

The nurse was studying her intently now and Mary 
wondered what she thought. She remembered the 
scrutiny she had given herself before the mirror this 
morning when she had her new spectacles on. The 
fat of middle age was gone, but her face seemed hag- 
gard and drawn and the streaks of white through her 
hair added to the impression of great age. Her cloth- 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 175 


ing was ill fitting now because of her loss of weight. 
Her hand sought out the outline of the mourning 
brooch at her bosom. 

"Only this remains unchanged," she said, and she 
perceived that the nurse did not understand her re- 

The bawling of deck hands interrupted them. The 
nurse rose to her feet. "We are headed into the slip 
now," she said. "Will you want to go back to your 
stateroom, madame?" 

Mary said yes, to straighten up and to pick up a 
few personal things. The nurse helped her to her feet 
and took her there. 

Inside, she sat tiredly fussing with her hair and 
then her bonnet. At last she rose and slipped into her 
heavy coat. It must be rather warm in New York for 
October, she thought, but there was a chill inside her 
which she could not warm. The heavy coat would be 
best. She pulled the coat about her frail figure and 
walked uncertainly and with a noticeable limp to the 

The nurse was waiting for her, smiling. "I thought 
that perhaps madame might like for me to escort her 
down the gangplank," she explained. "It is rather 
treacherous even when one has the best of footing." 

"No," Mary decided firmly. "No, thank you, 

176 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

young lady. Do not misunderstand me please. I ap- 
preciate your kindness and attention. It is just that 
I must walk by myself here. What awaits me ashore 
I do not seek to thrust on anyone." 

There were times when the pain was not so bad, 
she thought, but at those times the partial paralysis 
of her legs seemed worse. And now the pain was not 
so bad, but the deck seemed to writhe below her and 
the footing was uncertain. She stared down the slope 
of the gangplank, thrust one foot forward tentatively, 
and then began descending. 

As Mary Lincoln groped her way ashore, holding 
desperately to the handrail, she heard loud cheering 
and turned startled eyes to the milling throng below 
and ahead of her. The hundreds of faces were blurred, 
so that she could not make out the features on any one 
of them, and yet they all seemed to be turned toward 
her. She thought of turning back and seeking out the 
ship's nurse, and then, for a fleeting moment, the old 
lure called out to her, the old love of being seen and 
greeted by the many. She took a firmer grip upon the 
handrail, set her generous mouth firmly in a straight, 
determined line and moved on. 

The cheering and the cries of greeting grew louder 
now. Mary Lincoln felt a flush of pride rise in her 
cheeks, experienced a gnawing hope. Could this be 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln -177 

for her? Yes, she told herself. It could be. Had not 
she wired Elizabeth her intentions? Someone would 
have come to meet her and take her to Springfield. 

It must have got into the papers then! Yes, that 
would be it. The newspapers. She was forgiven, and 
not forgotten. The stain was gone. They were her 
friends again. All of them. After all, she was the 
widow of Abraham Lincoln. 

She reached the bottom of the gangplank and al- 
most fell, staggering awkwardly as her feet hit the 
pavement. Her back had commenced to throb again, 
but she felt the flush of the old excitement in her 
cheeks. It was an effort to walk this way, but she held 
herself proudly erect. 

The first snickers of amusement stunned and then 
terrified her. She halted uncertainly, seeking to focus 
her eyes on the hundreds of faces. She wished she had 
put on her spectacles now. Someone near by laughed 
and raised a hand to jab a pointing finger at her. She 
drew back, feeling a sudden great emptiness inside of 
her. It was then that she saw the policeman moving 
swiftly toward her. 

She flinched as he placed a heavy hand on her 
shoulder, and thought of that time in her hotel room 
in Chicago when Leonard Swett had placed her un- 
der arrest. 

178 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"Back with ye now," the officer was saying. "Back 
now, me woman. Make way here." 

Mary Lincoln felt the strong arm in blue sweep her 
aside. She stumbled clear, teetered and regained her 
balance. Then she turned curious eyes to watch. A 
beautiful woman — quite overdressed, she thought — 
swept by toward a waiting carriage. Other women 
followed. People were calling out and throwing kisses. 
Mary Lincoln squinted with the effort to focus her 
eyes, but the lady's face remained blurred. From the 
noises of the crowd, though, she knew that this must 
be someone of prominence. 

Her curiosity overwhelmed her at last. 

"Who was it, sir?" she inquired of a man next 
to her. 

She watched surprise cross his face. "You mean to 
say, madame, that you did not recognize Madam 
Sarah Bernhardt?" 

Mary shook her head no and managed a sheepish 

"The first lady of the footlights!" the man said 

A first lady? Mary Todd Lincoln turned away 
slowly and saw then the familiar face of Lewis Baker. 
As he came to her, she sobbed and put her head on his 
chest, feeling the great weariness within her. 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 179 

"There, there, Auntie Mary," Lewis was saying. 
"I'm sorry I was late. I have the carriage waiting." 

"It is all right, Lewis," Mary Lincoln said at last. 
"All right. Let us go quickly please. I have seen a 
first lady just now, but there is no fascination in me 
for first ladies any more." 

Chapter 9 

"It is a fierce monotony filled with pain and pun- 
gent grief/' Mary said slowly. She moved haltingly 
across the room. Bright sunlight streamed in through 
open windows. "God alone can ease my burden, 
Lizzie, until I am reunited with my dearly beloved 
husband and my children." 

Mary Lincoln turned, with some effort, to face her 
sister, and saw the torment in Lizzie's eyes. 

a Do not grieve, dear Lizzie," she said. She felt her 
mind rise then and soar to distant heights as it often 
did when she thought of Abraham. "He walked 
among them as a prince," she said. "Nothing they 
have done or can do will ever change that now. Only 
my return to him will assuage this sorrow which has 
been about me these many years like a clinging 


The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln - 181 

"You walk much better today, Mary," Lizzie said, 
and Mary heard the attempt at cheerfulness in her 
sister's voice. "This long period abed is what has 
made you melancholy. I do believe you are improving 
rapidly now." 

"The boils are so troublesome to me." Mary sighed. 
"And my hands — see how swollen they are?" She 
moved painfully to the small table near the bed. "I 
must remove the ring until the swelling goes down." 
She tugged at the worn gold band and felt weak for 
the effort of it. It gave at last and she slipped it off, 
peering at it, and then she placed it on the table. It 
saddened her that she must do this. 

"It is warm," Lizzie said. "Very warm. This has 
been such a hot, dry summer. Is there anything which 
would make you more comfortable?" 

"Perhaps a glass of water, Lizzie. I have such a 

"Why, of course, dear Mary." Mary listened to the 
sounds of Lizzie descending the stairs. Then she 
stared at the small calendar at her small writing desk. 
July 14, 1882. 

"My Gethsemane is ever with me, dear Lord," she 
said. "When will it be over? Oh, when?" 

She had lasted it out for one year here on the hill 
at Springfield and then decided on one last attempt to 
ease the pain wracking her weary frame. Dr. Sayre 

182 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

in New York had been very kind, as she remembered 
him when they were friends in Lexington. He told 
her frankly that the inflammation of her spinal cord, 
resulting from the fall at Pau, had partially paralyzed 
the lower part of her body. He said it would get 
worse, and that her entire body might be paralyzed 
one day. She had written some friends about it, but 
had elected not to tell Lizzie. Lizzie had enough wor- 
ries as it was. 

She found, at the Clarendon Hotel, where she 
stayed, that she was becoming increasingly unable to 
walk without the aid of a chair. Even using a 
chair, she was likely to fall at times. It was a perse- 
cution of a sort, she thought, but then her life was 
rilled with persecutions. Another one made little dif- 
ference really. After all, she was only waiting. 

She held Robert at a distance from her still, and 
yet, she told herself grudgingly, she was proud of him. 
They were saying he was a good cabinet officer. She 
told herself grimly that there must be some ironic 
justice in Robert's presence at the shooting of poor 
James Garfield. Robert was traveling about a great 
deal now with President Arthur. He and his daughter 
Mary had visited her every two or three weeks at the 
hotel in New York, and later at the Turkish, Electric 
and Roman Baths operated by Dr. Miller. 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 183 

Mary sighed. None of the treatments seemed to 
help. And as the cold, wet March days passed and the 
first blush of the spring of 1882 was yet a promise in 
the air, she had returned to her sister's home. And 
she thought, as she rode the rails back to Springfield 
that time, that this might be the last of it. 

It mattered little to her that in January of this 
year Congress had increased her pension to five thou- 
sand dollars a year. It had been important to her, 
earlier, though, when the matter of Garfield's widow 
and Grant's need of money came before the House 
and Senate. At least, it had seemed important. Was 
she not in direst poverty? 

Mary sighed. She had found it increasingly diffi- 
cult, through these years, to draw a line of distinction 
between poverty of pocketbook and poverty of affec- 
tion. Perhaps she ought to have tried more strenu- 
ously to do so. She listened to Lizzie climbing the 
stairs and reached eagerly for the glass of water. She 
drank deeply, thanked her sister and sat down tiredly. 

"It has been nearly forty years," he said thought- 
fully. "Nearly forty years, Lizzie, since my feet 
crossed the threshold of this house as a bride. That is 
a long, long time, isn't it?" 

Lizzie said yes, it was, but it would be best not to 
think about it now. 

184 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

"But I dwell in the past, Lizzie. It is a fancy of 
mine. The past is all I have, you see. There is no 
afterglow to it. It is all what was and what might 
have been." 

"I understand, my dear, but you must think of 
yourself now." 

"Ich dien" Mary said in German. "I serve. I 
serve a memory as best I can, and so I have for seven- 
teen years now. Before that, God knows, I walked 
beside him doing those things which I felt to be best 
for him. If I erred in judgment, God forgive me." 

"There was no error, dear sister." 

"Yes. Perhaps. I fancy sometimes lately that I 
can see errors now. But I was young and beautiful 
once. They said that. Even those who spoke ill of me 
and gossiped about me said that. And I was ambi- 
tious, too, for my dearly beloved." 

"Do not think of the past, Mary." 

"I do not know why they whispered so. Washing- 
ton is a place filled with animosities and cruel gossip 
though. It is a carnivorous society there which feeds 
on the meat of the gentle ones." 

"You must rest, Mary." 

"My rest is near at hand." 

"You must not speak like this. Ah, Mary, you 
speak of it so often these days. It is the heat." 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 185 

"No, not the heat. I do not mind those things 
which nature does to me. It has been what people 
have done which yet afflicts me." 

"I am driving out tomorrow, Mary. Perhaps you 
would like to go with me again?" 

"I should only just sit there, in the closed carriage 
outside the store, and people would stare and point 
and speak about me in hushed tones. Or perhaps I 
would purchase some dressgoods, knowing all the 
while that those about me would speak, after my de- 
parture, of my trunks of unused goods. It is a certain 
knowledge that is cruelty too." 

Lizzie sighed. "As you wish, Mary." 

"Have I been such a great burden to you, Lizzie? 
I know I have. You and Ninian have been so kind." 

"No burden, dear Mary. What little we have done 
we owe to mankind and to you. We love you, dear 
sister. We love you very much." 

It comforted her. Mary told herself she needed 
love. She needed all the love she could get. The 
familiar numbness played about her knees and hips 
now, and she rose and made her way to the bed. 

"I shall rest awhile," she said. Lizzie nodded, bit- 
ing her lip, and tiptoed from the room. And Mary 
Todd Lincoln lay back to watch happier moments of 
her life pass before her. 

186 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

She had only just dozed, she told herself, looking 
up into Lizzie's anxious countenance. But Lizzie said 
not, it was Saturday now, and Mary had not even 
roused when they treated her boils. She must try to 
eat something. 

Mary said she would, watching astonishment spread 
across her sister's face. She asked what was the mat- 
ter? Lizzie had tears in her eyes. She turned away, 
and Mary realized, with a start, that no sounds were 
issuing from her mouth. 

Lizzie and the doctor came and went away again, 
during the day, and once Ninian came to her and 
looked into her eyes and held her hand. 

Night fell and they came with lamps. The pa- 
ralysis gripped her with iron claws now. The pain was 
fading. She could no longer feel the dull, drawing hurt 
of the boils. She wished that they would turn up the 

She heard them say once that it was daylight now 
and someone — her vision was so blurred she knew not 
who — came and took the lamps away. They could not 
fool her, she thought, grinning to herself. It was night 
and they wanted her to rest. She closed her eyes 
tiredly and the grip of the paralysis seemed to loosen 
a bit. The blackness came then, swirling about her, 
and yet, she thought, she could not sleep. 

Once, she knew that Dr. Dresser was in the room 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln '187 

again. She heard him speaking with Lizzie and heard 
her sobbing. And then it was very quiet for a long 

She felt and heard the fresh breeze as it rustled the 
curtains and blew into the room. She was glad. There 
was a scent of rain about it. It had been so dry and 
hot that a fresh rain would be good. 

Mary Lincoln tried to move but failed. The pa- 
ralysis was complete now, she thought. Then the 
darkness came again, and this time, with it, a voice. 
It rather startled her at first — perhaps because she 
had not heard the softness of it for so many years. 
What was it saying? She strained to hear. 

It was a soft, compelling voice, filled with sym- 
pathy and with love. And it was saying, as no other 
voice quite like it ever could say: "Come, Mary dear. 
Come to me. Your trial is ended now." 

Mary found she could move then. She reached first 
for the worn gold ring and was surprised to find that 
it went so easily onto the swollen finger. 

"Love is eternal," she said. 

Then Mary Lincoln rose from her bed and went to 
the voice. 





Abraham Lincoln Quarterly. Published by Abraham Lincoln 

Association, Springfield, 111. Issues of March 1945, Dec. 1945, 

Dec. 1947, Sept. 1949, March 1950. 
Angle, Paul M. ed. The Lincoln Reader. New Brunswick, 

N. J., 1947. 
Barton, William E. The Life of Abraham Lincoln. 2 vols. 

Indianapolis, 1925. 

. The Women Lincoln Loved. Indianapolis, 1927. 

Bayne, Julia Taft. Tad Lincoln's Father. Boston, 1931. 
Burgess, John W. The Administration of President Hayes. 

New York, 1916. 
Carpenter, Francis B. The Inner Life of Abraham Lincoln: 

Six Months at the White House. Boston, 1883. 
Colver, Anne. Mr. Lincoln's Wife. New York, 1943. 
Evans, W. A., M.D. Mrs. Abraham Lincoln: A Study of Her 

Personality and Influence on Lincoln. New York, 1932. 
The First Year of American Heritage, Dec. 1954-1955. Issue of 

Aug. 1955, p. 10. 
Gernon, Blaine Brooks. The Lincolns in Chicago. Chicago, 

Goltz, Carlos W. Incidents in the Life of Mary Todd Lincoln. 

Sioux City, Iowa, 1928. 


192 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

Grimsley, Elizabeth Todd. "Six Months in the White House," 

Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Oct. 192 6- Jan. 

1927, pp. 43-63. 
Glyndon, Howard. "The Truth About Mrs. Lincoln," The 

Independent, Aug. 10, 1'882. 
Helm, Katherine. The True Story of Mary, Wife of Lincoln. 

New York, 1928. 
Herndon, William H. A Letter to Isaac N. Arnold. Library of 

Congress, privately printed, 1938. 
— , and Weik, Jesse W. Hemdon's Life of Lincoln. New 

York, 1889 and 1902. 
Herr, John. In Defense of the Lincoln Family. Cynthiana, Ky., 

Holden, Walter S. Abraham Lincoln, A Man of Inner Conflict. 

Toronto, 1944. 
Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Vol. XXXI, No. 3 

(Sept. 1938). Springfield, 111. 
Keckley, Elizabeth. Behind the Scenes. New York, 1868. 

Kent, C. William. "Lincoln and Davis," Third Annual Report 
of the Ohio Valley Historical Association, Vol. Ill (1910), 

Kinnaird, Virginia. "Mrs. Lincoln as a White House Hostess," 
Papers in Illinois Historical Society, 1938. 

Lamon, Ward Hill. The Life of Abraham Lincoln; From His 
Birth to His Inauguration as President. Boston, 1872. Ghost- 
written by Chauncey F. Black. 

Lorant, Stefan. A Picture of His Life; Books and Articles. 
New York, 1957. 

Mearns, David C. The Lincoln Papers: The Story of the Collec- 
tion with Selections to July 4, 1861. 2 vols. New York, 1948. 

Moos, Malcolm. The Republicans. New York, 1956. 

Newton, Joseph F. Lincoln and Herndon. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 193 

Nicolay, Helen. Personal Traits of Abraham Lincoln. New 
York, 1912. 

Nicolay, John G., and Hay, John. Abraham Lincoln: A His- 
tory. New York, 1917. 

Official Proceedings of the Republican National Conventions of 
1868-1880. Charles W.Johnson, publisher, Minneapolis, 1903. 

Papers in Illinois Historical Society, 1938, and Transcript for the 
Year 1938. Illinois State Historical Society, 1939. 

Randall, Ruth Painter. Mary Lincoln, Biography of a Mar- 
riage. Boston, 1953. 

. Lincoln's Sons. Boston, 1955. 

Sandburg, Carl, and Angle, Paul M. Mary Lincoln, Wife 
and Widow. New York, 1932. 

Stoddard, William 0. Inside the White House in War Times. 
New York, 1890. 

Townsend, William Henry. Lincoln and His Wife's Home 
Town. Indianapolis, 1929. 

. Lincoln and the Blue Grass. Lexington, Ky., 1955. 

Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society. Publication 
of the Illinois State Historical Society. Nos. 37, 38, 39. 

Wallace, Mrs. Frances (Todd). Lincoln's Marriage. News- 
paper interview, Springfield, 111., Sept. 2, 1895. Privately 
printed, 1917. 

Warren, Louis A., ed. Lincoln Lore. Periodical published by 
The Lincoln National Life Foundation, Fort Wayne, Indiana. 
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(Feb. 15, 1937), No. 1067 (Sept. 19, 1949), No. 1124 (Oct. 
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Whitney, Maj. Henry C. Life on the Circuit with Lincoln. 
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194 • The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 

. The Life of Rutherford B. Hayes. Considered vols. 1 

and 2, Hayes Series. Boston, 1914. 
Wilson, Rufus Rockwell, ed. Intimate Memories of Lincoln. 
Elmira,N.Y., 1945. 

Manuscript Collections: 

Cochran, William C. Letter to his mother, June 16, 1876— 
Re: Republican Convention 1876. Hayes Memorial Library, 
Fremont, Ohio. 

Davis, David. MSS. Photostat of Leonard Swett's letter con- 
cerning the Sanity Trial of Mrs. Lincoln. Chicago Historical 

Hayes, Rutherford B. Campaign material — 1876 Convention. 
Hayes Memorial Library, Fremont, Ohio. 

. Personal Papers— 1849-1892. Ohio Historical Library, 

Columbus, Ohio. 

Herndon-Weik MSS. Library of Congress. 

Illinois State Historical Library Collections. Miscellaneous 

Lincoln National Life Foundation Collection. Fort Wayne, In- 
diana (Publisher of Lincoln Lore). Dr. R. Gerald McMurtry, 

Lincoln Administration Papers. Original records of Robert T. 
Lincoln as conservator of his mother's property while she was 
under judgment of insanity. Illinois State Historical Library. 

Lincoln. Original Estate Papers of Abraham, Mary Todd, and 
Thomas Lincoln. Probate Judge's Office, Sangamon County, 
Springfield, 111. 

Lincoln, Mary Todd. Court Records of Sanity Trial of, photo- 
stats. Illinois State Historical Library. 

Lincoln, Robert Todd. Papers of Abraham Lincoln. MSS. 
Library of Congress. 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln • 195 


Lincoln, Thomas "Tad." Guardianship, Papers of, photostats. 

Probate Judge's Office, Sangamon County, Springfield, 111. 
Nicolay, J. G. MSS. Library of Congress. 


Aurora, Illinois, Beacon-News. Dec. 11, Dec. 25, 1932; Jan. 1, 

Jan. 8, 1933. 
Chicago Post and Mail. July 13, 1875. 
Chicago Tribune. May 20, May 21, Aug. 8, 1875. 


Adams, J. McGregor, 68 
Albertson, J. R., 113-114 

Allen, Mrs. , 35, 84-86 

Allen and Mackey Company, 

"Amanda," 152 
Amerique, the, 166 
Arnold, Isaac N., appointed 
counsel for Mary Todd Lin- 
coln, 13-14, 67-68; receives 
bonds from Mary T. Lin- 
coln, 18, 133-136; relation- 
ship with Abraham Lincoln, 
21-22; character and de- 
scription, 29-31, 69; mo- 
tions for postponement of 
trial, 70-72; interrogation 
of jury, 73-75; asks reswear- 
ing of jury, 76-77; in exami- 
nation of witnesses, 79-94, 
113-120; suspects political 
motives, 96-97; cross-exami- 
nation of Robert T. Lincoln, 
101-113; calls Mary T. Lin- 
coln as defense witness, 120- 
125; statement for the de- 
fense, 126-129; reaction to 
verdict, 132 

Arthur, Chester A., 26-27, 182 

Aurora, 111., 148, 153 

Ayer, Ben, part in arrest of 
Mary Todd Lincoln, 12, 52, 
65; as counsel for plaintiff, 
14, 16, 70; approves Ar- 
nold's interrogation of jury, 
73; opening statement, 76; 
examination of witnesses, 
77-94, 113-118; in examina- 
tion of Robert T. Lincoln, 
94, 95-112, 119; waives 
cross-examination of Mary 
T. Lincoln, 125 

Baker, Lewis, 172, 178-179 
Baker, Lewis, Jr., 171 
Batavia, 111., 19, 133 
"Beatrice," 32, 36-40, 41, 145, 

Bellevue Place Sanatorium, 

Batavia, 111., 19, 133, 150 
Bernhardt, Mme. Sarah, 178 
Black, Chauncey F., 62 
Blaine, James G., 25, 143, 144, 




The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 


Blake, Dr. — 

Bradwell, Judge James B., 25, 

26, 137-145, 157, 158 
Bradwell, Myra, 25, 26, 137- 

145, 146-150, 151 158 



145, 155, 164, 177, 180-181, 

183-185, 186 
Edwards, Ninian, 124, 142, 

145, 151, 153, 154, 155, 

157-158, 159,160, 161, 185, 

1881 bonds, 102 

Chicago Homeopathic College, 

77 Farwell, Charles B., 68 

Chicago Tribune, 26, 145, 147, Fidelity Safe Deposit Com- 

163 pany, 99 

Clarendon Hotel, New York, Fitzhenry, John, 88 


Clifton House, Chicago, 33, 57 Gage, Lyman, 68, 90, 91, 131- 

Cogswell, Thomas, 68, 73-74 132 

Cogswell-Weber Company, 73 
Congressional Globe, 59, 61 
Convention of 1860, 10, 11 
Crerar and Adams Company, 

Danforth, Dr. Willis, 77-80 
Davis, Judge David, 11, 21, 
23, 24, 29,47,97, 100, 110, 
125, 140, 141, 145 

Davis, Dr. , 114-115 

Democratic National Conven- 
tion, 23 
Dodge, Charles, 89-91 

Dodge, Mrs. , 82 

Dresser, Dr. , 186 

Durand, Henry, 68 

Edwards, Elizabeth, 124, 142, 

Garfield, James A., 26, 27, 182 
Gavin, Maggie, 35, 86-88 
Gossage and Company, 

Charles, 35 
Grand Pacific Hotel, Chicago, 

10, 18, 33, 41, 81, 88, 89, 

Grant, Ulysses S., 22, 23, 26, 

47,96, 106, 138, 139 
Greeley, Horace, 23 

Hayes, Rutherford B., 25, 158, 

Henderson, Charles, 68 
Herndon, William H., 60-61, 

62, 112 

Ingersoll, Col. Robert G., 25, 

The Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln 


Isham, Dr. 

-, 92-93, 98 

Jacksonville, Fla., 79, 93, 98 
Johnson, Dr. , 116 

Lamon, Ward Hill, 62, 112 

Liberal Republicans, 23, 97, 
138-140, 143-144, 157-158 

Liberal Colored Republican 
Convention, 23 

Lincoln, Abraham, 9-10, 21, 
22, 23, 28, 35, 42-43, 44, 
52, 53, 58, 60-62, 128-129, 
142, 173, 187 

Lincoln, Abraham (son of 
Robert Todd), 151, 163 

Lincoln, Edward, 44, 54 

Lincoln, Jessie Harlan, 163 

Lincoln, Mary (daughter of 
Robert Todd), 150, 152, 
153, 163, 172, 182 

Lincoln, Mary Harlan, 21, 
100, 107, 123 

Lincoln, Robert Todd, as po- 
litical instrument, 10, 23-25, 
26, 31, 138-141; signs affi- 
davit, 11, 50; greets Mary 
T. Lincoln at court, 13, 66, 
67; petitions to be conser- 
vator of estate, 14-15; and 
the trial records, 19, 30; re- 
turns money after second 

Lincoln, Robert Todd (Cont.) 
trial, 20; offices held in 
later years, 26-27, 167, 171- 
172, 182; number of wit- 
nesses for, 29; Mary T. 
Lincoln's analysis of, 33; 
returns her purchases, 34; 
Mary T. Lincoln's concern 
for, 45-46, 53-54, 56; her 
telegram to, 53, 93; embar- 
rassed at clothing auction, 
63; testimony, 94, 95-101, 
119; cross-examination of, 
101-112; Mary T. Lin- 
coln's testimony concerning, 
122-123, 124; mentioned in 
Arnold's summary state- 
ment, 127, 128; weeps, 130; 
receives bonds, 133; visits 
to Mary T. Lincoln in sana- 
torium, 137, 150-153; ac- 
companies her to Spring- 
field, 154; does not oppose 
second trial, 159; Mary T. 
Lincoln's bitter letter to, 
162-163, 164-165 

Lincoln, Thomas (Tad), 32, 
33, 41, 42, 56-58, 63, 110, 
117, 118, 127 

Lincoln, William, 55, 142 

Marseilles, France, 170 
Mason, James A., 68 

200 • The Trial op Mary Todd Lincoln 

Matson and Company, 3i-34, Stuart, John T., 11, 47, 100, 

113 125, 141, 145 

Mattock, T. C, 115-116 Swett, Leonard T., arrest of 

Miller, Dr. , 182 Mary T. Lincoln, 10-12, 45- 

Moore, Silas, 68 65; recommends Arnold as 

Moulton, E. T., 115 her counsel, 13-14, 67-68; 

summary statement to jury, 

Naples, Italy, 170 16, 125-126; receives Mary 

National Labor Party, 23 T. Lincoln's bonds, 18, 133- 

Nicholas Hotel, Springfield, 61 136; Mary T. Lincoln's law- 
yer at second trial, 19, 26, 

Parkhurst, , 68 144, 145, 157, 159; attitude 

Patterson, Dr. R. J., 19, 133, toward A. Lincoln, 21-22; 

143, 145, 147, 154, 157, 159, political maneuvering of, 24- 

163,170 25,97,138,140,141 
Pau, France, 163, 166, 170, 

171, 182 Tipton, Sen. Thomas Warren, 


Rutledge, Nancy, 61 Townsend, J. S., 115 

Trial records, disappearance 

Sayre, Dr. Lewis A., 169, 181- of, 19-20, 30 

182 Turkish, Electric and Roman 

Seaton, , 91-92 Baths, New York, 182 

Smith, Dr. Charles Gilman, Turner, Samuel M., 10, 11, 12, 

116-119 35, 45, 46, 65, 81-84 
Sorrento, Italy, 170 

Stalwarts, 22, 23, 26, 28, 96, Wallace, Frances Todd, 155 

97, 138, 140, 143, 144, 148, Wallace, Judge Martin R. M., 

158 14, 17, 69-70, 71-119, 130, 

Stewart, William, 68 131, 132, 145, 159 

Stewart and Aldrich Company, Wooster, W. H., 115 


Stone, J. B., 114 Yates, Sen. Richard, 59 

(Continued from front flap) 

Todd Lincoln's insanity was flimsy and 
would not have stood up if it had been 
strongly contested by the defense. They 
present this view by means of a contrast. 
First they take the reader through the trial 
as it actually took place, with no witnesses 
for the defense and practically no activity 
on the part of Mrs. Lincoln's assigned 
attorney. Then in a series of courtroom 
scenes they re-enact the trial as it might 
have been if Mrs. Lincoln had been repre- 
sented by an aggressive, well-prepared 
lawyer. In their reconstruction Mrs. Lin- 
coln's lawyer shreds much of the evidence 
alleged against her. 

If Mary Todd Lincoln's easy commit- 
ment resulted from a conspiracy to slip it 
through the court, why and for what pur- 
pose? The authors take the view that sev- 
eral of Lincoln's old friends were disturbed 
by the corruption of the Grant administra- 
tion and were bitterly opposed to the Grant 
or Stalwart wing of the Republican Party. 
Although Robert Lincoln was not himself 
a major political figure he stood ready to 
lend the magic of the Lincoln name to 
Grant. The authors believe these men 
wanted to smear Robert Lincoln without 
tarnishing his father's name. If he could be 
made to appear a man who put his mother 
in an asylum to get her money their end 
would be achieved. 

At the end, the speculative reader looks 
back over the reconstruction Rhodes and 
Jauchius have made of the case and wonders 
—it could all be true. 



Was Mary Todd Lincoln railroaded into a mental insti- 
tution by means of a conspiracy? 

The authors maintain that she was. 

How long was the jury out? 

The authors say it was out less than five minutes. The 
verdict was a written one, consisting of a medium-length 
paragraph signed by all twelve jurors. It is hard to see how 
they could have reached agreement and prepared their ver- 
dict so rapidly. 

Mary Todd Lincoln was unquestionably eccentric. Was 
she in the legal sense of the word insane in May 1875? 

The authors believe she was not, in spite of the court's 

Did her mental condition noticeably improve in the thir- 
teen months ending in June 1876? 

The authors say there was practically no change. After 
only about five months in hospital she was "paroled" to her 
sister, Mrs. Ninian Edwards, in Springfield. 

Did she have a more effective lawyer in her second sanity 

The authors point out that Leonard Swett argued for her 
commitment in May 1875, and for her release as sane in 
June 1876. Each time he won easily.